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SOA & WOA: Article

SOA and Services as a Service

Why your old data center infrastructure won't scale in the SOA age

While the number of SaaS providers grows, as well as enterprise acceptance, we are really not breaking new ground. In essence, today's SaaS providers offer visual systems, meaning they communicate with a human being. They also provide a single visual interface, and the users have to take both the data and behavior as provided. We could call this an enterprise application that's not much more than a Web site, or an old-Web technology.

Moving forward, we now have the opportunity to leverage discrete services, as needed, for use in both SaaS-delivered enterprise applications and SOA. These are typically Web Services that provide a specific and narrow set of behaviors and data that are meant to become part of a larger application or composite. For instance, address validation services, tax rate calculation services, stock transaction services...you get the idea. They aren't visual services, but can become core components of your SOA and leverage services that you don't have to write, test, or host. These services will exist with your local services in your repository. So you can build core applications by mixing and matching services that you rent, not create. This is the destination for the new Internet, and the next frontier for the existing SaaS players and SOA.

So, where do you get these services? Most major SaaS players such as Salesforce.com, Rightnow.com, and NetSuite.com provide their core application functionality as a service by standing up Web Services that are consumable by their subscribers. Guys like eBay.com and Amazon.com provide similar services that, of course, support their businesses as points of integration, or extend the functionality of their Web sites and core businesses.

However, there are emerging companies that are in the pure service provider business...renting all types of services for all types of purposes. We can call these guys service brokers, because they are providing a Web Services platform for many providers, to many consumers. They provide the provisioning, security, billing, maintenance, and support.

StrikeIron is the one that comes to mind. StrikeIron is not an application provider; it's a SaaS provider where the first S is "Services." They offer a variety of services such as SMS text messaging, tax rate calculations, address validation, etc. Their objective is not to provide the holistic application, but simple components that can be abstracted into enterprise and SaaS applications...as needed...for a small monthly subscription fee. So you don't write it, you don't test it, you don't host it, you just leverage its functionality at a fraction of the cost had you developed the same service in-house.

The major obstacles to leveraging services delivered on-demand that you did not write, test, or host are that the services weren't invented by local developers and aren't hosted in the data center. The fact is, if you're always considering security issues, you really need to get over it. You'll find that your ability to adopt remotely hosted services now is very much like those who adopted the Web in the early 90s. Those who moved first lead the game and saved a ton of money in the process. Those who waited to accept the Web as a valid source of information had to catch up later. With this movement, most enterprises should be leading the way to leveraging as many rented services as they can, and never, ever building services that somebody has already built. Those services are typically better tested and provide better functionality.

I think this is the next driving force behind SaaS and SOA. As more and more businesses learn that these services exist, they can leverage them and the value is much the same as "traditional SaaS," perhaps even more valuable. Count on the Internet-delivered service provider, including brokers, to be the next big "hype cycle" in this business, and I have to say that it's pretty cool.

More Stories By David Linthicum

Dave Linthicum is Sr. VP at Cloud Technology Partners, and an internationally known cloud computing and SOA expert. He is a sought-after consultant, speaker, and blogger. In his career, Dave has formed or enhanced many of the ideas behind modern distributed computing including EAI, B2B Application Integration, and SOA, approaches and technologies in wide use today. In addition, he is the Editor-in-Chief of SYS-CON's Virtualization Journal.

For the last 10 years, he has focused on the technology and strategies around cloud computing, including working with several cloud computing startups. His industry experience includes tenure as CTO and CEO of several successful software and cloud computing companies, and upper-level management positions in Fortune 500 companies. In addition, he was an associate professor of computer science for eight years, and continues to lecture at major technical colleges and universities, including University of Virginia and Arizona State University. He keynotes at many leading technology conferences, and has several well-read columns and blogs. Linthicum has authored 10 books, including the ground-breaking "Enterprise Application Integration" and "B2B Application Integration." You can reach him at david@bluemountainlabs.com. Or follow him on Twitter. Or view his profile on LinkedIn.

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