Software AG unwraps SOA product suite

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Germany's Software AG is rolling out a set of products aimed at helping enterprises move their IT systems to a services-oriented architecture (SOA), the company said Tuesday.

The announcement comes as numerous suppliers of business applications, including SAP AG and Oracle Corp., champion SOA as a way for enterprises to make better use of assets locked up in legacy applications and reduce development costs by creating reusable software services.

Software AG is calling its SOA suite Crossvision. It offers six tools including an application composer that supports the AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) and BPEL (Business Process Execution Language) standards, a repository for SOA assets, and tools for business process management and service orchestration.

SOA services are generally standards-based, reusable process components that are created by adding a common interface, or "wrapper," to a program, allowing it to interoperate with other applications. Typically written in a language based on XML (Extensible Markup Language), the services fulfill requests from back-end systems to execute an activity, such as "address change" or "submit claim."

Proponents of SOA contrast it with more traditional approaches to application development, which they see as fragmented and hardwired, making business processes difficult to change. SOA infrastructures are designed for change -- a big factor for fast-moving enterprises.

One of the challenges of building an SOA is to satisfy the unique needs of two separate groups: business analysts, who study and shape business processes, and system architects, who do essentially the same with IT processes, said Ivo Totev, vice president for Crossvision product marketing. While each group requires some of its own tools, both need to share their enterprise's metadata and systems architecture.

Crossvision address these needs, according to Totev, by enabling business analysts to design their processes and then turn them over to developers to design the IT systems around them. "This back and forth can continue until the service is complete," he said in a webcast. "We have made the process very easy."

Software AG described the six Crossvision components as follows:

-- CentraSite is a registry and repository that forms the backbone of Crossvision, managing SOA assets such as business services, policies and processes;

-- Application Composer, a model for creating rich Web 2.0 user interfaces, helps define application logic and process control, supports both AJAX and BPEL, integrates into existing application and portal servers and provides collaborative tools for analysts and system architects;

-- Business Process Manager offers a process-driven, information-centric approach to define, execute and optimize business process as well as align people and IT systems;

-- Service Orchestrator helps create and combine services based on the BPEL standard, compose new business services from existing systems based on content based routing, encrypt and sign according to XML security specifications, keep logs and image for non-repudiation and reporting purposes, and scale and dynamically balance load across multiple machines;

-- Information Integrator manages and consolidates data, publishes information models according to an advanced semantic approach and accesses data from different databases in one single view;

-- Legacy Integrator is designed to unlock data and functions in legacy systems, avoiding the need to "rip and replace."

The system supports open standards and customizable metadata, allowing Crossvision to support any SOA artifacts through a one-time mapping and definition process. It also offers SOA management and governance capabilities, according to Totev.

Managing changes to services is a complicated process, because the multilayer structure of many services, he said.

"Can I change one service without impacting another? Or who is entitled to make changes? And who is managing quality of service?" he asked. "This is why you need to have a centralized architecture."

CentraSite, the combined registry and repository service, helps manage the proliferation of services and systems in an SOA implementation.

Crossvision has been released now to a small number of enterprises, said Software AG board member Peter K

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