IBM Redbooks about WebSphere and SOA/Web services – go get ’em!

IBM publishes an extensive collection of “Redbooks,” technical information in book form on all sorts of software and hardware topics. You can browse and search the collection and there is copyright information “to print multiple copies of specified IBM Redbooks or to make them available on an enterprise intranet or server for use by multiple persons in your enterprise”

Here are a few links to get you started:

You can download and read the PDFs for all of these.

Thinking about celebrating SOAP at 5 years (I know it is early)

Next April 26, SOAP turns 5 years old. Well, not the original SOAP, but SOAP 1.1 which really kicked off what I consider the Web services era. This is the version where IBM and Microsoft overhauled what had come before and, through our joint involvement, gave new focus to interoperable communication while taking advantage of XML, still relatively new.

The SOAP 1.1 spec was published on April 26, 2000, and two days later, April 28, IBM posted a Java implementation on alphaWorks for free. This was called SOAP4J. Over that first weekend, more than 400 copies were downloaded (which reinforced what we thought developers did on weekends!). Within a month or so, SOAP4J was donated to Apache and became the basis for Apache SOAP. So, by my reckoning, this makes IBM the very first company to donate code to open source for one of the modern web services standards (and SOAP 1.1 was certainly a de facto standard, though there is now an officially blessed W3C SOAP 1.2 standard).

When this spec was first published we were deluged with press requests and I, in my naivete, thought “wow, they must think this is a really cool spec”! Of course, for many people the real story was IBM working with the folks from Redmond for the first time since OS/2. We’ve worked on web services specs ever since, IBM contributing its years of experience on how to build reliable, scalable, secure enterprise applications and messaging infrastructure.

So, my question to you is, what should we do when SOAP turns 5 years old next April? Post your comments below.

How do people start using Web services and SOA? Step 3

The final step or phase for Web services and SOA is to take an enterprise view. This means that you look at your entire infrastructure and try to understand how you can migrate from your collection of EAI and B2B and everything else to a situation where a service orientation dominates.

We find that most of the companies at this level are in the financial services industry. This really isn’t too surprising because

  • They are frequently at the leading edge of adopting new technology to gain efficiencies and support straight-through-processing initiatives,
  • Their industry has a lot of mergers and acquisitions.

To the second point, when two companies come together, they want to get the various systems talking to each other as quickly as possible. After that, they might want to consolidate functional systems or move to a model where it becomes easier to relocate datacenters.

When I speak with customers in the banking industry about SOA and ESBs (Enterprise Services Buses) they don’t take too long to explain that they have been thinking about these topics for some time. In the vase of ESBs, they may even have some in production based on modern SOA principles. I’ll talk more about the ESB concept in future entries.

I first wrote about these steps to using SOA in an article in ComputerWorld at the end of last year. Our conclusions then have continued to be borne out as we’ve spoken with customers this year. We encourage you to start pragmatically by choosing one or two projects that will help you understand how SOA and web services fit in your organization. This means getting a better view of what resources you can bring to bear and what the ROI is for your particular IT infrastructure. This is obvious, but no two companies have the same IT plumbing. So all this great and general advice about SOA and web services needs to be localized for your particular configuration.

Once you have the experience of a few web services “under your belt,” you can move on to connecting them together via BPEL. The WebSphere Business Integration Server Foundation can help you do this. During all this you should be thinking about what this would mean to your enterprise as a whole so that by the time you make that type of commitment you have practical experience and the resources and products to help you meet your business goals via SOA in your infrastructure.

Make sure you visit the SOA and Web services zone to learn more about SOA and Web services. This offers both basic and advanced technical material as well as many free downloads to get you started.

How do people start using Web services and SOA? Step 2

The next step or phase of adopting web services and SOA is where you start doing what we call “service oriented integration.” This means that you now have services that are becoming interdependent or at least are called sequentially. Here BPEL might come into play and more fine grained end-to-end security is frequently a requirement. Management also starts to become an issue, though we (the industry) don’t yet have the web services standards complete and implemented in this area. This hasn’t stopped companies like Amberpoint from providing some early solutions for management.

Next, the big view …

How do people start using Web services and SOA? Step 1

Ok, so let’s talk a bit about how people start using web services and SOA. We identified three main ways that people jump into this.

The first is what I call the “accumulation phase.” At this point people implement services very tactically: there may be one service to connect to a customer in one department, another to connect two internal applications, and perhaps a third to get non-critical business data from an outside source. If you ask the CIO about how many services his or her company has, you might not get an exact number. This is frequently an experimental phase where individual developers are trying to figure out if this technology has value for them in their environment.

At this point, you probably don’t need anything too fancy in terms of security or management: you can use coarse-grained security similar to what we do for encrypted Web pages and there aren’t so many services that you can’t manage the IT constructs that actually implement them, such as EJBs. If you wish, however, there are companies that do look at what it means to manage the services, though what they provide may not integrate smoothly with the rest of your management infrastructure.

Companies should use these early forays into Web services and SOA-land to understand what the ROI really can be for them given their IT infrastructure and the skills they have in house.

Once you start having more than a few services or you start having seriously dependent services, perhaps in a business process, you are ready to look at entry point or phase #2 …