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Learning from SOA Mistakes

A guide to SOA anti-patterns - how to benefit from known unworkable solutions

Capturing the Experience
So that all enterprises can benefit from the experience of early adopters of SOA, it's important that companies deploying SOA, companies providing SOA solutions, and companies providing tools communicate with each other. Participation in industry bodies and consortia can be an excellent way of doing that. Outside the commercial arena, free of the pressure to pick a product or make a sale, people can exchange ideas and discuss approaches to realizing SOA.

The Open Group is a vendor-neutral consortium whose vision is boundary-less information flow in and between organizations. It sees SOA as the prime architectural approach by which enterprises can realize that vision. Its SOA Working Group exists to develop and foster common understanding of SOA to facilitate alignment between the business and information technology communities. It does this by conducting a work program to produce definitions, analyses, recommendations, reference models, and standards to assist business and information technology professionals in and outside the Open Group to understand and adopt SOA. Participation in forums such as this helps people learn from others and capture common experience for the benefit of the wider community.

It's particularly important that anti-patterns are identified and described, and catalogued in a structured way. In the SOA Advanced Technology team at IBM, for example, an effort is under way to identify SOA anti-patterns from experiences with SOA customer engagements. The goals of this effort are, in addition to identifying the anti-patterns, to catalogue them for future reference, and to develop educational material on anti-patterns. And the practice of detecting anti-patterns at all stages of the SOA solution lifecycle is being enforced too.

SOA use is growing explosively. But when an enterprise uses any new approach, mistakes are likely, and SOA is no exception to this rule. For this reason, it's vital that the experience of the first adopters of SOA is captured for the benefit of all enterprises. Identification and documentation of anti-patterns - attractive apparent solutions that are known not to work - will help enterprises avoid mistakes and successfully implement SOA.

We hope that we have provided some useful thoughts on how to avoid known mistakes in a SOA project. Some of the most important lessons are:

  • Be sure to include skills development in your plan.
  • Plan for incremental releases, building on one another and testing as you go.
  • Web Services are an important technology but, by themselves, they aren't SOA. SOA is an architectural approach first and foremost!
  • Don't get trapped into thinking more services is a better solution. Having the right services is the better solution. Avoid anti-patterns like chatty services.
  • Adding point-to-point connections doesn't help; look to the Enterprise Service Bus pattern as way to simplify your architecture.
These aren't the only lessons. There are many anti-patterns to avoid. We are continuing to do research in this area and plan to publish further articles on the topic and encourage you, the practitioners, to join in this work, and get involved with other people and organizations working on SOA.

Where To Learn More
The Open Group SOA Working Group provides a very active forum for staying abreast of recent SOA developments. The group intends its work to be highly accessible to participants at all levels. You can find out more about the Open Group SOA Working group at www.opengroup.org/projects/soa/.

Besides the SOA Working Group, there are many sources for pattern and anti-pattern information. Below we list some we believe will be particularly useful.

1.  Jonathan Adams, Srinivas Koushik, Guru Vasudeva, and George Galambos. Patterns for e-Business: A Strategy for Reuse. MC Press. 2001.

2.  D. Alur, J. Crupi, and D. Malks. Core J2EE Patterns: Best Practices and Design Strategies. Prentice Hall/Sun Microsystems Press. ISBN: 0130648841.

3.  B. Dudney, S. Asbury, J. Krozak, and K. Wittkopf. J2EE Anti-Patterns. Wiley Publications. ISBN: 0471146153.

4.  E. Gamma, R. Helm, R. Johnson, and J. Vlissides. Design Patterns: Elements of Reusable Object-Oriented Software. Reading, Addison-Wesley. 1995.

5.  D. Hovemeyer and W. Pugh. "Finding Bugs is Easy."

6.  D. Reimer, E. Schonberg, K. Srinivas, H. Srinivasan, B. Alpern, R. D. Johnson, A. Kershenbaum, and L. Koved. SABER: Smart Analysis Based Error Reduction. In ISSTA. 2004.

7.  William J. Brown, Raphael C. Malveau, Hays W. "Skip" McCormick, and Thomas J. Mowbray. Anti-Patterns: Refactoring Software, Architectures, and Projects in Crisis. Paperback. March 20, 1998)

8.  Norbert Bieberstein, Sanjay Bose, Marc Fiammante, Keith Jones, and Rawn Shah. Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) Compass: Business Value, Planning, and Enterprise Roadmap. Developerworks. Hardcover. IBM Press

9.  Olaf Zimmermann, Mark R. Tomlinson, and Stefan Peuser. Perspectives on Web Services: Applying SOAP, WSDL, and UDDI to Real-World Projects. Springer Professional Computing. Hardcover. ISBN: 3540009140.

10.  Steve Jones. "SOA Anti-Patterns." CGI: http://www.infoq.com/articles/SOA-anti-patterns. Also check out Steve's blog @ http://service-architecture.blogspot.com/ Search for "anti-patterns" or "patterns."

11.  Ali Asranjani, Service-oriented modeling and architecture, How to identify, specify, and realize services for your SOA. IBM Developerworks. November 2004.

12.  SOA Survey article, www.govtech.net/magazine/channel_story.php/100246

13.  "Growth in SOA and Web Services Implementation." SDA Asia. July 25, 2006.

14. Jenny Ang, Luba Cherbakov, and Dr. Mamdouh Ibrahim. “SOA Antipatterns - The obstacles to the adoption and successful realization of service-oriented architecture.” 18 Nov 2005. IBM Developerworks: http://www-128.ibm.com/developerworks/webservices/library/ws-antipatterns/

More Stories By Tony Carrato

Tony Carrato is the worldwide chief operations architect for the SOA Advanced Technology team in IBM's Software Group, focusing on SOA delivery. In this role, he is responsible for a team of IT architects who help IBM clients define and implement SOA projects around the world. Tony has over 30 years of IT experience, concentrating in financial services and telecommunications. He has held a variety of senior technical positions in Australia, Hong Kong, and the U.S.

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Dr. Harini Srinivasan is on the SOA design requirements team at IBM Software Group – a team that works with customers and IBM architects to capture SOA specific requirements and articulate them to relevant IBM SOA technology groups including the SOA product divisions. Before joining the SOA design requirements team, she spent 10 years at IBM Research as a Research Staff Member and has worked on customer-focused research topics such as performance analysis tools, JVM runtimes (including instrumentation) and C++ object models. . Her background is program analysis (static and dynamic analysis for performance and debugging), parallel and distributed systems including compiling explicitly parallel programs and runtimes for Java and C++.

More Stories By Chris Harding

Dr. Chris Harding leads the SOA Working Group at The Open Group - an open forum of customers and suppliers of IT products and services. In addition, he is a director of the UDEF Forum and manages The Open Group?s work on semantic interoperability. He has been with The Open Group for over 10 years. Dr. Harding began his career in communications software research and development. He then spent nine years as a consultant, specializing in voice and data communications, before moving to his current role. Recognizing the importance of giving enterprises quality information at the point of use, he sees information interoperability as the next major challenge, and frequently speaks or writes on this topic. Dr. Harding has a PhD in mathematical logic, and is a member of the British Computer Society (BCS) and of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

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