SOA Reference Model approved by OASIS

SOA-RM from OASIS attempts to set a standard definition for what is meant by the term service-oriented architecture.

The votes are in and the Reference Model for Service-Oriented Architecture 1.0 has been approved as a standard by OASIS, a spokesperson for the standards body confirmed Monday. An official announcement is expected later this week.

It can provide an overall framework for planning an enterprise SOA initiative, but it won't provide much in the way of real-world SOA implementation advice.
Jason Bloomberg
Senior AnalystZapThink LLC

The SOA-RM is intended to define the term clearly and technically for developers and architects. It might be hoped that the new standard will keep SOA terminology from being hijacked by software marketers eager to make sure their latest product release is buzz-word compliant whether or not it has anything to do with the service-oriented approach to application development.

The OASIS technical committee that worked on SOA-RM described it as "an abstract framework for understanding significant entities and relationships between them within a service-oriented environment, and for the development of consistent standards or specifications supporting that environment. It is based on unifying concepts of SOA and may be used by architects developing specific service-oriented architectures or in training and explaining SOA."

SOA-RM is not "directly tied to any standards, technologies or other concrete implementation details," the committee said. Rather, its purpose is described as providing "common semantics that can be used unambiguously across and between different implementations."

However, developers seeking specifics on how to implement SOA will have to look elsewhere, said Jason Bloomberg, senior analyst at ZapThink LLC.

"The OASIS SOA Reference Model is an abstract model that is intended to help organize distributed capabilities across different sets of users," the analyst said. "In essence, the SOA-RM is intended to help enterprise architects coordinate separate SOA efforts across an organization. The challenge that SOA-RM has is that it's quite abstract. So it can provide an overall framework for planning an enterprise SOA initiative, but it won't provide much in the way of real-world SOA implementation advice."

Duane Nickull, senior strategy analyst, Adobe Systems Inc., who worked on the technical committee crafting SOA-RM during the past 16 months, said that while he has heard the criticism that it is too abstract, the new standard is already being used in SOA implementations.

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"Part of the process of becoming an OASIS standard is that you have to have submissions by member companies that have been using it in production," he said. "There are supposed to be three and we had way more than three."

Even for those who have somewhat differing views of what would make a definition of SOA, Nickull sees SOA-RM as a positive step in the architecture's evolution. "What some people have pointed out who have slightly differing opinion of SOA is that they like it because even if you disagree with it, you can point to it and say, 'When I say SOA I mean that.' They know we've quantified SOA as an architectural paradigm and a model that was needed."

SOA-RM has even achieved the ultimate is Web 2.0 recognition. Nickull said, "It's included in wikipedia."

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