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That old cliché – the trouble with standards is that there are so many of them – could also be applied to the world of Service Oriented Architectures (SOA) with real justification. There are many software vendors out there claiming to offer SOA solutions so the coming together of some leading players, towards the end of last year, in an attempt to generate some specifications (if not yet official "standards") to which they could all work arguably fell into the bracket of being "a good thing".

Now that original group, which consisted of BEA Systems, IBM, IONA, Oracle, SAP, Sybase, Xcalia and Zend has grown with the addition of Cape Clear, Interface21, Primeton Technologies, Progress Software (Sonic Software as was), Red Hat, Rogue Wave Software, Software AG, Sun Microsystems and TIBCO Software. In addition, the group – they are so far declining the sobriquet "Consortium" – has sprouted a website which gives details of the specifications it is working on. These are expected to form the basis of future standards.

The group’s work falls into two main categories - Service Component Architecture (SCA) and Service Data Objects (SDO). The former describes a model for building applications, while the latter is designed to simplify and unify the way in which applications handle data. The latest SCA specifications can be found here , while SDO specifications can be found here.

Two significant names are missing from the group – Microsoft and HP. As SOA is all about the potential for users to build their own services from composites of loosely-coupled applications that may come from a variety of sources, and the specifications seem aimed at making that an easier task, it will be interesting to see how long they stand outside.®

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