HP goes lifecycle modelling

The model behind SAP's SOA

Warning: roundabout

The close relationship between HP and SAP, which led to the joint announcement of the latter's Enterprise SOA effort, has spawned a new applications development and deployment lifecycle model from HP's Bristol Labs – where much of the development work for SAP was carried out.

It now looks ready for a wider public.

There are six-stages to the lifecycle, built round an initial modelling stage that is followed by five successive model transformations.

According to John Manley, director of the Applications Services Department, and the man responsible for the lifecycle development effort at the Bristol Labs, this approach gives developers and architects an accurate model of the most complex of systems at any one point in time. It also gives a methodology which accommodates the realities of applications lifecycles, which is that there is always a need for change. This can be effectively managed by ensuring that all changes only ever go through the model.

Stage one of the lifecycle is the development of the generic process model for the enterprise or, more likely, a library of models that are grouped by demarcations such as vertical industry sectors or types of business process. The model(s) set out to capture the best practices for any business process or policy in sufficient detail to describe a complete functional solution using modelling languages such as BPEL. As these models are generic, every application would, in practice, require taking the closest model to the business need and customising it to fit an actual requirement.

The stage one generic models are seen by Manley as applying primarily to large enterprise needs, where the resources exist to conduct the sometimes extensive customisation that can be required. For mid-market businesses, he sees an opportunity to build libraries of pre-configured models that fit the majority of applications, and therefore require only the minimum of customisation. This would mainly be in the form of parameter adjustments. He also sees opportunities throughout for the development of markets, and the building of process models is an obvious place where smaller vendors and even individuals can offer solutions for sale.

The five transformation stages of the model start by taking the generic model through the customised business process design, where specific user requirements tailor the generics to fit the actual business need. The second set of stages cover application design, where the model is used to first define the performance and resource demands in purely abstract terms and then to a complete specification in terms of functions and infrastructure. The final stages cover infrastructure design, where the model takes shape as an operational reality through the allocation of physical resources. This creates what Manley calls a Bound Model, which then leads to final deployment to the production environment.

In practice, this lifecycle is not likely to be a neat, linear process, as model adaptations will be required for many reasons as processes adapt to new business requirements or require re-engineering to improve performance. The HP modelling process has therefore been developed to accommodate adaptation at any point, as long as all changes go through the model which always holds court at the centre of the process. ®

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