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Data service platforms for SOA emerging – Burton

Data services platforms, around since 2005, but overshadowed in SOA circles by the ESB, may finally come into their own this year, a new Burton Group report predicts.

This may be the year that data services platforms (DSPs) emerge from the shadows of the enterprise service bus (ESB) to take a more prominent role in service-oriented architecture (SOA), according to a new report by Burton Group Inc.

A data service can enable access to any data source that can be accessed programmatically.
Anne Thomas Manes
Research DirectorBurton Group

DSP technology first came on the scene in 2005, but at that point SOA products were focused on infrastructure, especially ESBs, according to "Data Services Platforms: Searching for Their Place in the Market," a 53-page report published this month by Burton.

"Now, at the beginning of 2008, the future looks a little brighter for the DSP market," write the report's authors, Anne Thomas Manes, research director for Burton, and Stuart Selip, vice president of consulting services for the analyst firm. "Market awareness has improved. DSP vendors are finding that many prospective clients already understand the value of data services, and they are actively looking for a solution."

Asked who in the IT department needs to be focusing on DSP technology and products, Manes said it crosses boundaries through the SOA development lifecycle.

In the beginning, the selection of DSP products will probably be the responsibility of an architect, she said. Depending on the company, that specific title might be enterprise architect, data architect, service architect or integration architect, she said.

"At development time, it might fall to the data integration team or the SOA team or, in situations where you don't really have an SOA team, the application integration team," she said. "One of the primary reasons that the EII [Enterprise Information Integration] vendors switched their marketing message to services was to attract attention from the SOA team because they weren't making any headway with the data integration team."

Once the cycle moves to runtime, she said the responsibility for DSP moves to the operations organization, which is responsible for application servers and similar infrastructure.

For all those interested in the technology, the Burton report contains an explanation of what data services and DSPs are and why they are important to SOA:

  • "A data service is a type of service that provides access to data—any type of data. Essentially, a data service can enable access to any data source that can be accessed programmatically. It combines concepts from data integration (DI), application integration, and service oriented architecture (SOA) domains to enable access to live data regardless of its physical location or format. A data service provides an abstraction layer that hides the physical characteristics of the data source as well as the mechanisms used to access it. From a service consumer's perspective, the service is the data source, providing a simple, convenient, logical data model that can be accessed and queried using various query mechanisms."

  • "The demand for data services tooling has spawned several data services platform (DSP) offerings. These products provide value from both a tactical and strategic perspective. DSPs support rapid development of data services that enable ad hoc access to and integration of a variety of data sources—all the while abstracting the underlying access details."

Helpful as all this sounds, Manes and Selip caution that DSPs are not a silver bullet and in fact require SOA developers to work to make data services work.

"A DSP is not a panacea," the authors explain. "It is not an out-of-the-box, all-encompassing data access layer for all enterprise data. Data services must be built one at a time, and each service provides access to a specific set of data."

Handy as the DSP may be, it does not automate the creation of data services. Nor should a DSP be thought of as a replacement for a data warehouse or traditional data integration system, but as a complement to them, they write.

After cautioning against great expectations, the authors suggest that SOA architects and developers focus on initially using DSPs on targeted projects that have the potential for a noteworthy return on investment (ROI). Dashboards, customized report generators and data integration for a specific application are among the high-value projects they recommend. Data services mashups are another area where DSPs can proved their worth.

The authors also suggest downloading free trial versions of various vendors DSP products and trying them out before buying.

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The Burton report offers a detailed analysis of the DSP vendor landscape. Two vendors with the greatest "mind share" are BEA Systems Inc. (which is currently being acquired by Oracle Corp.) and Progress Software Inc. AquaLogic DSP is the BEA product, but the report notes that Oracle has not yet offered guidance on how it will fit into its SOA and data management product line. Progress offers DataXtend Semantic Integrator based on technology it acquired from Pantero, which had been a pure play DSP vendor.

Red Hat Inc., is also listed as a player with its acquisition of MetaMatrix in 2007.

MetaMatrix and Pantero will not be the only pure play DSP vendors to be gobbled up in the dog-eat-other-dog's-homework world of SOA, Manes and Selip predict. Three big dogs in SOA infrastructure, IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle Corp., may continue to hunt for pure play vendors.

Among the pure plays, the authors list:

  • Composite Software Inc., a DSP and enterprise information integration (EII) vendor
  • Denodo Technologies Inc, a data mashup vendor
  • Ipedo Inc., an XML data management vendor
  • WSO2 Inc, open source SOA infrastructure vendor
  • XAware Open Source Integration Community, data integration vendor

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