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SOA vendors filling data services gap

The data layer was the forgotten stepchild in SOA development until recently when vendors began to offer tooling for data services.

Service-oriented architecture (SOA) vendors are moving to fill the data layer gap in their product offerings.

Iona, like a lot of other forward thinking companies right now is really seeing that the gap between the data services layer and the transport layer really needs to be eradicated.
Bradley F. Shimmin
Principal Analyst of Application InfrastructureCurrent Analysis LLC.

It would be a rare business application that didn't require data, but the data layer was ignored by vendors in the early stages of SOA tool development, says Bradley F. Shimmin, principal analyst of application infrastructure at Current Analysis LLC. He views today's announcement by Iona Technologies Inc. of a new release of Artix Data Services 3.7 as part of a trend by vendors to plug the data gap.

"Iona is doing something important and we've seen it done by previous companies, including Progress Software with their data services/data management product, which is to wed data management with Web services orchestration," Shimmin said. The basic idea in using SOA as a principle for building an application infrastructure is "abstraction between disparate systems," he noted. "The way it's been done has ignored one important facet which is the data layer."

What is required is a level of abstraction for creating reusable services for the disparate points of data an application requires, the analyst said.

"There was a gap between the data services layer and the transport layer," he said. "What Iona is doing with this release is breaking that gap down at runtime."

Tools like Artix Data Services allow developers, data architects and business analysts to link WSDLs to the data model, Shimmin said.

"Let's say you're working in Artix Data Services 3.7 and you want to pull in a WSDL and tie it to a data model, you can do that," he explained. "That's one way Iona is pulling the two worlds together. With the 3.7 release they have 50 different transports that they are supporting. It makes what they are doing a much more runtime solution. They are able to apply the data model in a much less isolated atmosphere. It's much more tied into the runtime working systems in the enterprise."

Transports make it possible to tie into different systems with mappings for disparate data points, thus avoiding the need to re-code every time a new data source is added, the analyst explained. "You provide a layer of abstraction for the data."

Without the abstraction layer, the data model was more or less "set it in stone," Shimmin said. "Then people had to re-code to account for different data sources and different mappings. This lets you do what you do with an ESB for orchestrating transactions, you're doing it with the data model."

Iona is not alone in tackling the SOA data gap. The analyst said Progress Software Corp., Red Hat Inc. and Software AG have all been moving in the direction of providing tooling for data services.

For more information
Making sense of data services mashups

JavaOne: JBoss on SOA middleware, Java EE and data services

"Iona, like a lot of other forward thinking companies right now is really seeing that the gap between the data services layer and the transport layer really needs to be eradicated," Shimmin said. "Folks who are used to building their SOA infrastructure using their ESB for orchestrating services without any sort of knowledge of or concern for the data layer really need to wake up and smell the data, if you will. And it looks like a lot of the vendors that have data services and data management software realize this and are working hard to eradicate that shortcoming in software right now."

Upgrades available in today's release of Artix Data Services include:

  • Transport Abstraction Layer - providing more than 50 common message transports, reducing the need for custom coding.
  • Smart Mappings - providing visual cues (including auto-layout and transform route highlighting), intelligent data conversion to automatically bridge different data types, and a search feature for navigating the data model.
  • Aliases - allows users to define alternate names for message structures to make them more meaningful for business user or a regional localized dialect, facilitating data model collaboration enterprise wide and with business partners.
  • Broader platform support - Artix Data Services Designer now supports Apple OS X and Solaris in addition to Windows and Linux.

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