SOA tools top Eclipse priority list

An Eclipse project leader says architects and developers face technology gap in SOA and that Eclipse needs to fill the void.

SOA may be "crossing the chasm" to use the popular marketing terminology, but it is also facing a technology gap, said Miko Matsumura, vice president of technology standards at Infravio Inc. and a leader of the Eclipse SOA Tools Project.

Service-oriented architecture is driven by business needs for agile IT systems, but right now customer requirements are outpacing software technology, he said, putting the demand ahead of what vendors can supply.

"Customers want the functionality today," he said in an interview following last week's EclipseCon in Santa Clara, Calif. "But vendors don't have the functionality today."

He said this gap is leading to the current wave of major vendors buying smaller companies to acquire the technology needed to fill out SOA offerings.

He added it is also driving the development of tools that architects and developers can use to move SOA from theory to practice.

The Eclipse SOA Tools Project (STP) will provide tools for both architects and developers. There is some functionality for SOA in the current Eclipse Web tools but the SOA tools will greatly expand on that, he said.

Developing STP is a priority at Eclipse. Of the more than 60 projects now moving through the Eclipse development process, Mike Milinkovich, executive director of Eclipse Foundation, listed it as one of the most important.

"SOA is going to take some time to evolve and mature," he said at EclipseCon last week. "It's certainly an area where we want to see more projects."

Matsumura observed that the interest in SOA projects by the Eclipse director reflects the pressure it members and the software industry at large are feeling to meet customers demands. STP promises a range of modules that will cover SOA development from architecting through coding and implementation.

With this modular approach STP is divided into five sub-groups:

  • The SOA System subproject is concentrating on "tools and frameworks for assembling, building, packaging and deploying services to runtime containers."
  • The STP Core subproject is defining models within the Eclipse Modeling Framework (EMF) so they conform to the Service Component Architecture (SCA) specification. It is also defining Java components to support SCA syntax.
  • The Service Creation subproject is tasked with providing tools for creating and editing service contracts and service bindings. It will be providing frameworks and extensions for editors to create services for SOA implementations.

The BPEL to Java (B2J) subproject is working on tools for translating Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) into executable Java classes. It is also defining a standard framework for deploying those classes.

The BPMN (Business Process Modeling Notation) subproject is working on an editor and tools for creating model business processes diagrams and generating BPEL artifacts.

Target dates have yet to be set for when all these modules will be ready for SOA architects and developers to use. The project is in the beginning stages and with the Eclipse processes designed to assure quality, Matsumura didn't want to even guess at possible release dates.

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