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Forrester: JBI, SCA still on the outside of SOA

Rich Seeley

SOA architects and developers are not likely to have standards for composition of Web services on multiple platforms this year, according to a report prepared by Mike Gilpin, vice president and research director at Forrester Research Inc.

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I have seen a few people who are highly knowledgeable express this concern [lack of SOA composition standards], but I don't think it's on the radar screen for the typical CIO or other senior buyer.
Mike Gilpin
Vice President and Research DirectorForrester Research Inc.

The good news is that there are composition standards in the works that might help speed service-oriented architecture development, but the bad news is vendors are wrangling over the standards and no clear winner has emerged yet, he writes in his report on "Emerging SOA Standards."

While vendors sort out which standards they actually have to support, the other good news is that Gilpin does not see this slowing the adoption of SOA in the business world.

Asked if lack of standards could cause CIOs to wait on the SOA sidelines until the vendors resolve their differences, Gilpin said: "I have seen a few people who are highly knowledgeable express this concern, but I don't think it's on the radar screen for the typical CIO or other senior buyer. The concern is valid, but a bit esoteric for all but the most advanced in SOA. And even then (where the concern is expressed), it impacts the buying of products like ESBs more than the overall SOA program, which is more about practices and processes than just products."

As Gilpin surveys the battlefield in his report on the SOA standards war, there are two competing camps.

In what might be called the Java camp, there is Java Business Integration (JBI), which is in Java Community Process (JCP). As defined in JSR 208 it is a standard for composing service containers into composite applications. Gilpin calls this standard "Java-centric."

Service Component Architecture (SCA) with Service Data Objects (SDOs) are proposed standards, which, in Gilpin's view, take a broader approach to the composition problem by aiming to work with multiple languages on multiple platforms. Proposed in November 2005, SCA/SDO has yet to make it into a standards body, although Gilpin sees a possibility of it eventually emerging as a de facto standard.

Which vendors are backing which standards is a little complex and is perhaps making the picture more than a little confusing. Also, despite some vendor rhetoric, Gilpin does not view the standards as necessarily competing since JBI has a more limited scope and might eventually fit into it as a Java implementation of a larger standard.

"A number of vendors have voiced support for one or both standards," Gilpin wrote in his report. "Today, JBI is more strongly advocated by Sun Microsystems and TIBCO Software. SCA and SDO are most strongly advocated by BEA Systems and IBM. Fiorano Software, IONA Technologies, PolarLake and Software AG plan increased support for JBI. IONA, Oracle, SAP, Siebel Systems, and Sybase have all endorsed the SCA and SDO proposal. Other vendors also participated in the development of the JBI specification, but have not yet announced product support."

Gilpin cautions that for all the big names in the SCA/SDO camp, Forrester finds the vendor support still somewhat tepid.

A key name you are not reading in this mix is Microsoft, which Gilpin labels "missing in action." He said Microsoft is not likely to support JBI because of its Java lineage. But he said hopes of some SCA/SDO backers that Microsoft will join them are not much more likely. The Forrester analyst's view is that Microsoft is still banking on the Web Services Interoperability (WS-I) Organization to handle the interoperability issues of SOA. Only widespread implementation of SCA/SDO in major vendors' products and a subsequent demand by customers for support is likely to push Microsoft into dealing with SCA/SDO, Gilpin said.

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Those product implementations will be one of the keys to a final resolution of what standards form the core of SOA, in Gilpin's opinion. If, in addition to IBM and BEA, the other major vendors that have endorsed SCA/SDO come out with products supporting it, then SOA architects and developers will have a de facto standard, Gilpin said. Meanwhile, the best hope for JBI would be as the "Java implementation of SCA." Forrester reports that IBM, which along with BEA did not support the ratification of JBI during last year's JCP vote, has said it would welcome such a move and that, at least unofficially, Sun appears to be willing to consider it.

In the Forrester report finished in March, Gilpin concluded that the fate of JBI and SCA/SDO is not likely to be known until sometime in the first quarter of 2007.


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