Tools Support Governance, Not Define It

I was surprised at David Linthicum’s latest blog entry. Normally, he’s pretty good about emphasizing that you can’t buy an SOA, but in his “Defining SOA Governance” post, a lot of the conversation was very tool-centric. He stated the following.

Key components of design time SOA governance include:

  • A registry and/or repository for the tracking of service design, management, policy, security, and testing artifacts.
  • Design tools, including service modeling, dependency tracking, policy creation and management, and other tools that assist in the design of services.
  • Deployment tools, including service deployment, typically through binding with external development environments.
  • Links to testing tools and services, providing the developer/designer the ability to create a test plan and testing scenarios, and then leverage service testing technology.

On the runtime governance side of things, he did preface the tool capability discussion with this statement: “Thus, runtime governance is the process of enforcing and implementing those policies at service run time.”

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Governance is about people, policies, and process. Tooling really only comes into play when you start looking at the process portion of the equation. I don’t want to dismiss tooling, because it absolutely is an important part of the governance equation, but if you don’t have the people or the policies, tools won’t help.

The other thing that I want to call out is how “SOA Management” has morphed into “Runtime SOA Governance.” Back in March of 2006, I was on a panel at the InfoWorld SOA Executive Forum and teased the panelist from AmberPoint about hijacking the term, but I’ve relented a bit simply because these terms all have preconceived notions about them, and the use of the term governance probably gets people thinking in the right direction. For many people, SOA Management may imply the kind of passive monitoring that people associated with traditional systems management (not that it should be passive, but that’s the perception many have). Runtime SOA Governance, however, is rooted in the notion of the active enforcement of policies associated with the consumer-provider interaction. If a change in marketing terms helps people understand it, I’m all for it.

But back to the main subject… whether it’s runtime or design time, there’s still a need to understand the policies and people/parties involved. If you don’t understand the concepts associated with a service contract (and it’s not just the functional interface) and have people on the both sides of the interaction who care about them, governance tools aren’t going to do you any good. If you don’t have people defining the enterprise policies associated with choosing and defining services, again, the tools aren’t going to be used effectively.

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