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Where SOA standards matter: The SAP view

Jeff Anders, director of solution marketing SAP AG's NetWeaver Developer Platform, was at JavaOne this month making a pitch for the new NetWeaver Composition Environment tool for standards-based service-oriented architecture (SOA) development. He brought along Michael Bechauf, vice president of industry standards at SAP, and currently chairman of the Web Services Interoperability Organization (WS-I) to help make the point that the standards-based approach broadens the reach of SAP tools beyond SAP. Anders and Bechauf answered questions on why standards, including Java EE 5, Service Component Architecture (SCA) now with OASIS, and WS-I guidelines matter in SOA tooling. Bechauf also talked about the need for Web services interoperability that transcends some of the debate over what is the latest and greatest technology. He argues that business people are looking for the Web to provide a "ubiquitous dial tone" so they can transact business over the Internet as easily as they do over the telephone.

What exactly is this composition environment you're demonstrating?
It's our SAP NetWeaver Composition Environment. This is a brand new product for us. We're taking the Java EE 5 app server and putting it in a commercially available product. On top of the application server, we're taking the technologies you may have known from SAP in the past, Composite Application Framework, Guided Procedures, Visual Composer, and we're putting those together along with some additional technologies and providing an integrated package for composition. What we're trying to do is provide an environment where our developers, our partners, our ISVs, have an environment for all levels of composition in an integrated package. We have service composition, asset composition, and UI composition. What we wanted to do is make these enterprise quality, make these useable by organizations doing multi-user, multi-national heterogeneous development. Regarding composition, there's talk from your competitors that you have tools for componentizing as long as you're working with SAP, but not if you're working with other products. What would you say to convince people to use NetWeaver for development even if they are not working with other SAP products?
Everything in NetWeaver Composition Environment is totally based on standards. The architecture we use, the interfaces we use are all standard. It's clearly not proprietary. It's for any service-based environment that's based on standards. This is where Michael can probably help explain. Regarding composition, there's talk from your competitors that you have tools for componentizing as long as you're working with SAP, but not if you're working with other products. What would you say to convince people to use NetWeaver for development even if they are not working with other SAP products?
One of the goals with Java EE 5 was standardization. We are also demonstrating how we use Service Component Architecture (SCA). The whole idea of SCA is to support the heterogeneous architecture. We want to be sure that whoever uses the composition environment has a first class experience working with our enterprise services and enterprise apps. But the other side is that because we support Java EE 5 and SCA, the developer is able to integrate in a heterogeneous environment all JMS products. Based on SAP's experience with enterprise IT, what do you find that SCA delivers that people really need?
Basically it is introducing simplifications to development across the board. For example, a design time model, a component model, a component assembly that a lot of vendors are supporting. So a developer who is used to one environment can switch over to another environment and find the same familiar toolsets. So effectively developers will find a familiar environment. It's easy for them to learn. They don't have to relearn. What about the WS-I profiles you are supporting and working on? Is there progress since we last talked in December?
Yes, there is progress. I'm chairing WS-I and one of the things we've announced is the general availability of WS Basic Security 1.0 and one of the biggest accomplishments is the support of the interoperability. The way that WS-I profiles become meaningful is they are adopted throughout the industry. It's not just a piece of paper that got written. It's actually part of five interoperable platforms. There's actually been demonstrations of interoperability that we have done with Microsoft, IBM, SAP, Novell and Oracle. It adds security. It adds quality of service. The next thing we're working on now is WS-I Reliable Secure Profile (RSP) 1.0. We're essentially supporting Web Services Reliable Messaging (WSRM) from the OASIS specification, where we are also co-chair. UDDI 3.0 is out. You talk to some analysts and they say don't use UDDI 2.0, go to UDDI 3.0. BPEL 2.0 is out there. SOAP is a generation past the WS-I profile. Does WS-I need to catch up with some of these standards?
There have to be interoperability problems on a wide range for WS-I to engage. That's the way WS-I operates. There are very broad interoperability issues that the industry can identify where all the vendors that are part of WS-I need to do something. From the WS-I perspective if we can prove that five vendors have effectively adopted a standard, then we can engage. Talking about UDDI, there are certainly use cases where a customer will say: "UDDI registry from vendor A and UDDI registry from vendor B need to interoperate." The question is, is that really an industry-wide problem? We're hearing from customers. We're also working with the requirements gathering working group that's part of WS-I. That's frankly what they have to live up to. Is it a specific interoperability problem, or is it an industry-wide interoperability problem? WSDL 2.0 is not finalized yet, but it's in last call. What are your thoughts on WSDL 2.0, because as we understand it people are looking at a backwards compatibility problem? Does that make it something people need to move to? Or does that make it DOA?
It hasn't been brought up to the industry level yet. In terms of WS-I, we are moving to SOAP 1.2 as part of Basic Profile 2.0. There have been some discussions, but it's fair to say that WSDL 2.0 has not come up yet. Beyond WS-I, is the backwards compatibility a problem?
It certainly would be something to consider. Just look from an SAP persepctive, we're doing now as part of Enterprise Services Architecture, we are creating thousands of services. These are WSDL 1.2 services. There's been some discussions in our development department about supporting WSDL 2.0. It will probably take some time for it to be adopted, but there will probably be tooling to move from WSDL 1.2 to WSDL 2.0. Is there a standard out there now that gets you really excited?
I'm excited about interoperability, quiet frankly. Interoperability doesn't always require that latest and greatest. We looked into where the industry is going and one of the things we're talking about is the business network. The Web as a ubiquitous dial tone. If you have a business relationship established between various companies and you want to automate the processes between companies, the last thing you want to worry about is interoperability. Look at telecommunications. You pick up a cell phone. You call anybody, anywhere in the world and the phone rings. That's where Web services have to go to. The Web as a ubiquitous media can establish contact. But what about the basic principle for establishing partner relationships, reliability, security? So if there's one thing I get excited about right now is the increasing dialog around interoperability. I was at the OASIS conference a couple weeks ago and people were saying we don't need the latest and greatest standards. We need systems to interoperate and make sure that we have the Web as the ubiquitous dial tone that enables business networks. That's what they care about. They don't care about 2.0 or 3.0 or 5.0. They want interoperability.

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