Archive for the ‘Metadata’ Category

Is Identity Your Enabler or Your Anchor?

I actually had to think harder than normal for a title for this entry because as I suspected, I had a previous post that had the title of “Importance of Identity.” That post merely talked about the need to get identity on your service messages and some of the challenges associated with defining what that identity should be. This post, however, discusses identity in a different light.

It occurred to me recently that we’re on a path where having an accurate representation of the organization will be absolutely critical to IT success. Organizations that can’t keep ActiveDirectory or their favorite LDAP up to date with the organizational changes that are always occurring with find themselves saddled with a boat anchor. Organizations that are able to keep their identity stores accurate and up to date will find themselves with a significant advantage. An accurate identity store is critical to the successful adoption of BPM technology. While that may be more emerging, think about your operations staff and the need for accurate roles associated with the support of your applications and infrastructure. One reorg of operations and the whole thing could fall apart with escalation paths no longer in existence, incorrect reporting paths, and more.

So, before you go gung-ho with BPM adoption, take a good look at your identity stores and make sure that you’ve got good processes in place to keep it up to date. Perhaps that should be the first place you look to leverage the BPM technology itself!

Multi-tier Agreements from Nick Malik

Nick Malik posted a great followup comment to my last post on service contracts. For all of you who just follow my blog via the RSS feed, I thought I’d repost the comment here.

The fascinating thing about service contract standardization, a point that you hit on at the end of your post, is that it is not substantially different from the standardization of terms and conditions that occurs for legal agreements or sales agreements in an organization.

I am a SOA architect and a member of my Enterprise Architecture team, as you are, but I’m also intimately familiar with solutions that perform Contract Generation from Templates in the Legal and Sales agreements for a company. My employer sells over 80% of their products through the use of signed agreements. When you run $3B of revenue, per month, through agreements, standardization is not just useful. It is essential.

When you sign an agreement, you may sign more than one. They are called “multi-tier� agreements, in that an agreement requires that a prior one is signed, in a chain. There are also “associated agreements� that are brought together to form an “agreement package�. When you last bought a car, and you walked out with 10 different signed documents, you experienced the agreement package firsthand.

These two concepts can be leveraged for SOA governance in terms of agreements existing in a multi-tier environment, as well as services existing in an ecosystem of agreements that are part of an associated package.

For example, you could have one of four different supporting agreements that the deployment team must agree to as part of the package. All four could rely on the same “common terms and taxonomy� agreement that every development and deployment team signs (authored by Enterprise Architecture, of course). And you could have a pair of agreements that influence the service itself: one agreement that all consumers must sign that governs the behavioural aspects of the service for all consumers, and another agreement that can be customized that governs the information, load, and SLA issues for each provider-consumer pair.

If this kind of work is built using an automated agreement management system, then the metadata for an agreement package can easily be extracted and consumed by automated governance monitoring systems. We certainly feed our internal ERP system with metadata from our sales agreements.

Something to think about…

Gartner AADI: Information Architecture and BPM

I attended a session from Michael Blechar titled “The Yin & Yang of Processes and Data: Which Will Be King of the Next Generation Applications?” A big title, and as a result, Michael covered a lot of topics. While there wasn’t any new information for me, I would say that this was one of the better big picture overview presented at the conference. Some of the topics he hit on:

  • The challenge of multiple metadata systems, and how some of the vendors are approaching it, in particular IBM. He specifically touched on CMDBs (Configuration Management Database), Service Registry/Repository, Software Development Assets, Database Metadata Management, and more. IBM’s approach is to provide a collection of metadata services that reside above all of this systems, providing a federation layer. Hmmm…. this sounds vaguely familiar, I think I called it Master Metadata Management and spoke more on it here.
  • The challenges in determining when to use them versus pushing the logic up into a service layer. It discussed the importance of service ownership.
  • The importance of information modeling and its importance in SOA.
  • The importance of service ownership/stewardship.
  • The importance of enterprise architecture operating as a team, and not having silos of business architecture, technology architecture, and information architecture that don’t talk to each other.
  • Overall, this was probably a good session for many people and hopefully helped them see a bit more of forest for the trees.

More on Oslo

In the latest BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition, Dana Gardner, Jim Kobielus, Neil Macehiter, and Joe McKendrick discussed, among other things, Microsoft’s recent announcements. The conversation started very similar to some of my own comments on the subject with this sense of deja vu. Neil Macehiter made a great point, however, that shows that this isn’t simply a rehash of model-driven architecture. He stated:

…they are actually encompassing management into this modeling framework, and they’re planning to support some standards around things like the service modeling language (SML), which will allow the transition from development through to operations. So, this is actually about the model driven life cycle.

This reminded me of my trip to Redmond in 2005 for the Microsoft Technology Summit. At the summit, we were shown an internal tool, I think from the Patterns & Practices group, that presented a deployment model of a solution. I recall a number of us going, “we want that.” If Microsoft has taken steps to integrate these models into the development and run-time management tooling, this is an excellent step, and certainly something beyond the typical model-driven development of the BPM suites. At a minimum, these capabilities should be enough for people to at least track the ongoing progress of the Oslo effort.

The second thing that came up, which again was consistent with some recent blogs of mine (see Registries, Repositories, and Bears, oh my! and Is Metadata the center of the SOA technology universe?), was the discussion around the metadata repository at the heart of Microsoft’s strategy. Dana pointed out that “there really aren’t any standards for unifying modeling or repository for various models” with some comments from Neil that this is very ambitious. First, I’d have to say that Microsoft trumped IBM on this one. Remember when IBM announced WebSphere Registry Repository and stated that they’d be coming out with their own standards for communication with it? They were slammed by many analysts. Microsoft, rather than trying to operate in the narrow space of the SOA registry/repository, are talking about the importance of metadata in general. The breadth of models and associated metadata when talking about full IT product lifecycle (development and management), is far broader than what is typically discussed in the SOA space. AS a result, there are no standards that cover this completely, so the lack of standards-based integration is a non-issue, and Neil nails it by saying Microsoft is trying to get out in front of the metadata federation problem and drive others to comply with what they do.

Give the entire podcast a listen here, or read the transcript here.

Registries, Repositories, and Bears, oh my!

Okay, no bears, sorry. I read post from my good friend Jeff Schneider regarding SAP’s Enterprise Service Repository (ESR). He states:

At the core of the SAP SOA story is the Enterprise Service Repository (ESR). It is actually a combination of both registry and repository. The registry is a UDDI 3.0 implementation and has been tested to integrate with other registries such as Systinet. But the bulk of the work is in their repository. Unlike other commercial repositories, the first thing to notice is that SAP’s is pre-populated (full, not empty). It contains gobs of information on global data types, schemas, wsdl’s and similar artifacts relating to the SAP modules.

This now brings registry/repository into the mix of infrastructure products that SAP customers must make decisions regarding adoption and placement. Do they leverage what SAP provides, or do they go with more neutral products from a pure infrastructure provider such as BEA, HP, SOA Software, or SoftwareAG/WebMethods? The interesting thing with this particular space is that it’s not as simple as picking one. Jeff points out that the SAP ESR comes pre-populated with “gobs of information” on assets from the SAP modules. Choose something else, and this metadata goes away.

I hope that this may bring some much needed attention to the metadata integration/federation space. It’s not just a need to integrate across these competing products, but also a need to integrate with other metadata systems such as configuration management databases and development lifecycle solutions (Maven, Rational, Subversion, etc.). I called this Master Metadata Management in a previous post.

Back when Gartner was pushing the concept of the ESB heavily, I remember an opening keynote from Roy Schulte (I think) at a Web Services Summit in late 2005. He was emphasizing that an organization would have many ESBs that would need to interoperate. At this point, I don’t think that need is as critical as the need for our metadata systems to interoperate. You have to expect that as vendors of more vertical/business solutions start to expose their capabilities as services, they are likely to come with their own registry/repository containing their metadata, especially since there’s no standard way to just include this with a distribution and easily import it into a standalone RR. It would be great to see some pressure from the end-user community to start making some of this happen.


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