Europeans embrace SOA, open source

BEA last week released the results of a survey held at its developer events in various European cities. The results revealed a high expected rate of adoption for both SOA and open source software (OSS).

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If a tree falls in the forest, chances are somebody might hear, but when enterprise developers respond to a survey, the results usually echo throughout the industry.

Jim Rivera, director of technology at BEA Systems Inc., certainly heard a bang.

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According to the results of a BEA survey last week at the vendor's dev2dev event of 1,000 enterprise Java developers from various European cities, nearly 75% said they are already developing or expect to develop service-oriented architectures (SOAs) in 2005.

"These results show a much greater rate of adoption than I anticipated in Europe," Rivera said.

Some might argue that since part of the dev2dev agenda was focused on developing service-oriented apps, the target audience would naturally have a greater inclination toward SOA, which could mean the 75% SOA usage number is bloated.

"This could've been a self-selecting survey," said Ron Schmelzer, senior analyst at ZapThink LLC, of Waltham, Mass. "The conference was about SOA, so it's not surprising that people are using it; however, SOA projects are going on in most big companies, and the fact that three out of four developers are doing SOA is not surprising," Schmelzer said.

In the coming weeks, BEA expects to release the results of a similar survey conducted at its dev2dev events in various cities across the United States, according to sources. The results, which are still being compiled, aren't expected to be too different from the European results, Rivera predicts.

Developers today who want to use Web services are forced to use relatively low-level APIs, writing some fairly complex code to accomplish the task.
Jim Rivera
Director of technologyBEA Systems

Tools aiding SOA adoption

SOA development is certainly no walk in the park, and the issue of complexity was cited by developers as the greatest barrier to SOA adoption.

"Developers today who want to use Web services are forced to use relatively low-level APIs, writing some fairly complex code to accomplish the task. I think both tools and application frameworks are important in helping to simplify the job," Rivera said. "Application frameworks help the developer to abstract away complexity and really focus on the business logic and the service interface that they want to expose as opposed to worrying about how to use new protocols."

According to the survey, 44% of respondents thought service orchestration and SOA application frameworks such as Apache Beehive, could help ease the complexity of building SOA applications.

Apache Beehive, an open source framework based on components from the BEA WebLogic Workshop runtime, eases the development of Java-based Web services, while providing a higher level of abstraction to build SOA applications. It is also one of BEA's many forays into the open source community.

Open source a threat to vendors?

According to the survey, more than 60% of developers revealed that they would use open source software (OSS); however, in a press release issued by BEA, this number was immediately tempered by a slew of reasons why OSS adoption might be risky and how strong support for commercial software remains.

Rivera doesn't think that OSS adoption on a large scale will necessarily hurt software vendors such as BEA mainly because their product offerings address the pain points around more complex technologies.

"Vendors just need to be concerned with where their value-add is, and making sure they can deliver on that value-add, and open source doesn't change that," Rivera said. "People are less comfortable relying on open source for technologies such as application servers, integration servers or portal servers. That's an area where the problems are less understood; the specs are still evolving for these types of technologies."

Open source is a lot stronger in Europe than North America, so more than 60% expected OSS usage is not surprising. In Europe, the government has a lot more involvement in technology purchasing, along with large telecom firms and banks, and they generally prefer to avoid vendor lock-in, Schmelzer said.

Open source applies competitive pressure to vendors like BEA. In addition, they also have competition from other vendors. Every year, vendors need to check to see that the bulk of their revenue is ahead of the curve of where open source is innovating, Schmelzer said.

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