Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Active Endpoints beefs up visual SOA orchestration with added features and expanded OS support

Active Endpoints, the inventor of the visual orchestration system (VOS), has spruced up its flagship offering with enhancements that include operational improvements and expanded operating system and database support.

The Waltham, Mass.-based company has released ActiveVOS 6.0.2, which includes new reporting capabilities, an enhanced ability to reuse plain old Java objects (POJOs), and new platform and operating system support.

The new version of ActiveVOS also addresses the ongoing debate over whether service oriented architecture (SOA) modeling languages such as business process modeling notation (BPMN) can be directly executed by the business process management system (BPMS) or first serialized into an execution-focused language like business process execution language (BPEL). [Disclosure: Active Endpoints is a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts.]

According to Active Endpoint's Alex Neihaus, vice president of marketing:
We support the latter approach on the simple theory that models aren’t fully specified and therefore cannot be executed on real machines – on which everything must be specified. That’s why we believe most modeling-oriented BPMSs end up frustrating business analysts and forcing developers to write lots of Java code to implement simple processes.
Neihaus said that the new version is the first iteration of something the company intends to pursue: unification of the visual styles of creating models and process design. An example of this can be found at the Active Endpoints Web site, where the “bordered style” link in the second row of the table shows a screen shot of the new design. Neihaus adds:
It’s just a beginning, but our BPEL processes are beginning to look and feel like BPMN-style models, and vice versa. As we do more of this, we’ll obviate the debate, bring analysts and developers closer together and make it possible to deliver BPM applications more easily.
In other enhancements to the product, service level reporting provides a granular perspective into average process response time, giving users the opportunity to identify and respond to bottlenecks that affect overall process performance.

New reporting capabilities include a summary of the response time of the top ten activities of the process, allowing operations staff to optimize running processes. Rich scheduling helps define the frequency of process execution using any combination of months, weeks, days, hours, minutes and seconds.

ActiveVOS now allows Java objects to maintain state, significantly increasing the number of use cases that can be fulfilled using the POJO capabilities. Previously, developers could reuse POJOs as native web services, providing the ability to invoke stateless Java objects directly from a process.

In addition to the server operating systems, application servers and database systems previously supported, ActiveVOS is now additionally certified with:
The latest version of ActiveVOS can be downloaded from A free, 30-day trial is available and includes support to assist in the evaluation.

ActiveVOS 6.0.2 is priced at $12,000 per CPU socket for deployment licenses. Development licenses are priced at $5,000 per CPU socket. Pricing is also available for virtualized environments.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Interview: HP’s Tim Hall on heightening roles of governance in SOA, cloud and managing dynamic business boundaries

Listen to the podcast. Download the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Learn more. Sponsor: Hewlett-Packard.

Read complete transcript of the discussion.

As enterprises scale up of their use of service oriented architecture (SOA), proper governance is providing an insurance effect. By deploying governance alongside and in sync with SOA development and deployment capabilities, enterprises are growing the use of SOA without stumbling -- allowing companies to “crawl, walk, and run” to SOA without losing control.

SOA governance heightens the business benefits of services, increases IT efficiency returns, and reduces the risk that complexity could undermine the services lifecycle in large organizations. Services governance also sets the stage for leveraging cloud and third-party services, while managing the boundary between internal and external services.

To unpack the relationship between SOA, governance, cloud and IT management, I recently interviewed Tim Hall, director of SOA Products for HP Software and Solutions.

Here are some excerpts:
The purposes of SOA governance has been to set the architectural vision and direction, lay the ground rules under which those activities are going to take place, and then foster collaboration between architects, and other people who engage in the processes of building solutions for companies, be they consumer focused, or be they within enterprise IT.

The whole thing is tracking your progress, where are you in this journey. It's not about installing a new pack of middleware and then declaring victory. You really have to measure along the way what you are doing, and how far you have gotten. Some measures that people start off looking at are things like reuse.

The whole notion of providing a service is to hide the layers of abstraction and to hide the complexity behind layers of abstraction, so that we can make changes behind the scenes that don't necessarily disrupt or alter the offering of the service. There are a lot of examples of this in the real world. Why hasn't IT been able to do a better job of capitalizing on those things?

This is one of those transformation opportunities. We're not just talking about Web services. We're talking about different ways in which we need to be able to flexibly compose and offer capabilities back to the business through a channel called a service. ... The adoption of services as a fundamental unit of commerce, if you will, within IT does something very fundamental to the way that people work together.

From HP's perspective, we are definitely trying to make sure that the collaboration between architects, quality assurance professionals, and operations personnel are there. That's kind of announcing that the various solution offerings that we're bringing to market are to make sure that none of these is an island. Those control points can reasonably be connected and allow for collaboration across all the different participants.

We're learning lots of interesting things about IT, and in particular, the ways that we can do things better. The whole notion of instilling an architectural vision to support change and flexibility; to give tools to the folks who are building composite systems, so they can better manage the roles and responsibilities for the various people that are participating in that; and better communicate with operations is something that we haven’t done very well.

It's really a matter of mapping your organizational maturity and what you're trying to achieve with the appropriate tools. People shouldn't be running out and buying tools, unless they really understand what problems those tools are going to solve, and the fact that certain organizations can introspect what they have done in the past and say what problems they want us to solve and or avoid.

The lessons that we're learning ... are specifically being applied to SOA right now, [but] have more far-reaching implications. As we look at things, like the different compositional patterns for systems that are coming -- Web 2.0 technologies, Ajax, rich Internet applications (RIAs), putting front ends on some of these things, or cloud computing -- all of these things are interrelated. My question is, should we not be applying these fantastic concepts and activities that we have been establishing through SOA governance more broadly to support all of these different types of next-generation composition?

From HP's perspective the answer is absolutely. The question is at what point are we going to be talking about next-generation application lifecycle management, or next-generation application composition and stop talking about SOA by itself as an island.

... There are more people coming to the table, more constituents coming to say, “How can I connect to these governance activities that are going on for services, but really for the purpose of generating some new business outcomes?” That, to me, is tremendously exciting.

I think one of the things you're going to see -- I'm not sure how far in the future, it's coming up more and more these days -- is an emphasis on understanding the business-to-business connections, or what some folks will call "federation."

I want to be very specific when I say "federation," because it is one of those overloaded terms that creates a lot of mystery. If we can take the wraps off of federation, what we're talking about is a pattern for how to expose the capabilities that I own within my domain to other domains. Those other domains could be within my organization, they could be elsewhere, or they could be third parties.

The good news is that SOA fundamentally supports that type of activity. The question is how well the tools support that activity today.

As we move into a more comprehensive cloud set of offerings, we're going to need to federate the different instances of services, metadata, their ownership, the consumption of those pieces, and really formalizing the relationships of using tools between the consumers and providers of those things.

When I say establishing relationships, I think about trading-partner agreements that get put in place, or supply chain agreements. They get put between supply chain partners about what information they're going to share and in what context they can use that.

We're really talking about doing the same kind of formalization with the consumption and providing of these various capabilities, in order for models like SaaS and cloud to scale up to the level that they need to in order to make a significant impact.
Read complete transcript of the discussion.

Listen to the podcast. Download the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod. Learn more. Sponsor: Hewlett-Packard.