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SOA vendors promise standards body home for SCA and SDO

Service Component Architecture (SCA) and Service Data Objects (SDO) are expected to go to a standards body by the end of this year, possibly the Object Management Group.

The Open SOA (OSOA) group held a teleconference yesterday to announce new members, a new Web site and new progress on its two key specifications -- Service Component Architecture (SCA) and Service Data Objects (SDO).

SCA and SDO are great ideas, but until this gets to a standards org it's kind of hard to take this seriously.
Tony Baer

The most welcome news from one analyst's perspective was the announcement that SCA and SDO are headed for a standards body to be named later with a decision coming by the end of the year. OSOA was formed last year by tech industry heavyweights BEA Systems Inc., IBM, Iona Technologies Inc., Oracle Corp., SAP AG, Sybase Inc. and Xcalia S.A. in the hopes of giving a jumpstart to SCA – which creates neutral interfaces, implementations and references that can be bound to different technology implementations – and SDO – which accesses data residing in multiple locations and formats

Noting that he felt the technical information supplied in the phone briefing was "vague," analyst Tony Baer, principal for onStrategies, said: "SCA and SDO are great ideas, but until this gets to a standards org it's kind of hard to take this seriously."

Ask which standards bodies OSOA is considering, Michael Bechauf, vice president for industry standards at SAP AG, would not name names, but did offer hints.

"The choice needs to be made based on two criteria," he explained. "One, these specifications have to do with Web services and there are a couple of well-established organizations in the Web services space. The other thing is that these specifications have to do with metadata, which basically would hint towards a notion of model driven development. Just by the choice of words that I used you can see the opportunities that we have in terms of submission and the choices that we have to make."

After the teleconference, Baer said, "They were heavily hinting that it would be OMG."

The Object Management Group's key specification is the multi-platform Model Driven Architecture (MDA), which would match OSOA's "model driven development" criterion.

Another questioner following up on the standards body issue asked what the difference was between the work OSOA is doing, as opposed to the SOA work being done by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS).

Ed Cobb, vice president for architecture and standards at BEA, responded that the OASIS effort, in which BEA is involved, is more focused on best practices for organizations planning SOA implementations.

"It's not really technology focused per se," he said. "What we're trying to do here with SCA and SDO is establish some core technologies for the programming model to be used by assemblers and developers in creating services. So I think it's a different level of abstraction."

For those interested in the specifics on current status of the SCA and SDO specifications, Karla Norsworthy, vice president of software standards at IBM, said there are a series of white papers on the new OSOA website.

In a brief overview of the current status of the standards, Jeff Mischkinsky, director of Web services standards at Oracle, said the specifications have been made simple enough that business analysts as well as developers can work with them.

"The main emphasis has been on simplification," he said. "If you look at the new policy work, we're making it a lot easier for an enterprise developer or assembler to specify policy hints in a simple declarative way without having to write a lot of code."

In response to a question, Mischkinsky explained that the "policy hints" technology is aimed at allowing the business analyst to work on policies for SOA applications.

"What we're doing is providing you with a simple list of enumerated choices that you can select from and then let the SCA tools generate all the code," he said.

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An example of using a policy hint would be selecting a zero security level for a Web services listing job openings in a human resources application since the goal would be to allow potential candidates easy access to that information. On the other hand, for Web services containing specific employee salary information, the highest level security would be selected by the business analyst working on the application.

OSOA has also improved description of connectivity with bindings specifications for JMS, JCA and Web Services, as well as and new BPEL and PHP authoring models, Mischkinsky said. In addition, there are now draft specifications for Service Assembly; Java and C++ service authoring.

New members being introduced in the teleconference on Wednesday include Sun Microsystems Inc., Cape Clear Software Inc., Red Hat Inc., Progress Software Corp. (parent of Sonic Software Corp.), Rogue Wave Software Inc., Software AG and TIBCO Software Inc.

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