Top vendors align on SOA programming model

By Stacy Cowley, IDG News Service |  SOA

A pack of top software vendors gathered Wednesday to unveil a new specification the companies hope will simplify application development within SOA (services-oriented architecture) environments.

Service Component Architecture (SCA) aims to create another layer that separates the business logic of an IT infrastructure from the underlying applications and middleware. BEA Systems Inc. executive Bill Roth, who writes a company blog aimed at developers, describes SCA as "a deployment descriptor on steroids" that will work with any programming language, not just Java.

SCA's backers include BEA, IBM Corp., SAP AG, Oracle Corp. and Siebel Systems Inc., among others. A key component of SCA is the Service Data Objects (SDO) specification, a blueprint IBM and BEA drafted several years ago and have already incorporated into some of their own software. SDO helps programmers access and manipulate data from heterogeneous sources, including relational databases, XML (Extensible Markup Language) data sources and enterprise applications.

"There's been a lot of buzz about Web services, but the programming necessary to utilize those technologies has been very primitive so far," said Ed Cobb, BEA's vice president of standards and architecture, during a conference call with journalists. "One of the goals we had with SCA was to make it easier to build real services in programming languages like Java and C++."

One noteworthy aspect of the SCA announcement is the completeness of the lineup of vendors backing it. Every major ERP (enterprise resource planning) vendor is involved, along with middleware giants IBM and BEA. Java creator Sun Microsystems Inc. is one glaring omission on the list of SCA sponsors, but executives involved in the specification's creation say they're talking with Sun and expect it to be involved in SCA's development.

"We're past the point of companies being able to have the luxury of deciding whether or not to do an SOA," said ZapThink LLC analyst Ron Schmelzer. "It's very clear that's the direction all of those vendors are going."

SOA is a design approach that aims to alleviate application and data integration problems by using standards-based Web services to link software components. Forrester Research Inc. estimates that 77 percent of large enterprises will be actively implementing SOAs by the end of this year.

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