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A primer on SOA governance

The ground rules

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Interview TIBCO's Stefan Farestam talks with Reg Developer about the ground rules of SOA governance.

What do you understand by SOA governance? Surely, it's just a question of corporate governance generally – automated business processes should be subject to the same controls as are applied to any business process?

Picture of Stefan Farestam On a high level that is certainly true but what's challenging with SOA, from a governance perspective, is its distributed and potentially heterogeneous nature. This makes it particularly difficult to establish SOA governance in a controlled and homogeneous fashion and without these two prerequisites being fulfilled, any good intentioned governance initiative rapidly breaks down. So SOA governance in my book encompasses all components of the SOA infrastructure in that it is instituted in a controlled and homogeneous fashion.

OK, how big is this issue then; and where does it bite?

A simple guideline is that it bites as soon as your SOA infrastructure contains components critical to your business. This is why we typically see governance appearing as SOA initiatives progress from the departmental to the enterprise scale, but it could become an issue immediately after your first service goes live.

Is it big? Absolutely. Since one of the core value propositions of SOA is to create a more dynamic environment for services to interact and to encourage reuse of services, controlling how these services interact with each other has a huge impact on both the long-term ROI and manageability of any SOA initiative.

What governance questions do organisations need to ask? How do they establish where they start on the governance ladder?

SOA governance can never be an after-thought as it can be very expensive to institute governance on an infrastructure that is not designed for it. Governance, therefore, has to be a core feature of any SOA initiative from the start if it is targeted at containing business critical services.

So the core questions should be focused on establishing a timeline for when to start using the various components of the governance infrastructure. This, in turn, should be guided by which level of control and agility is desired and required during the different phases of growth.

Although technology is an important part of governance, and an enabling component, personnel training and operational procedures are ultimately the key factors for success. It is therefore important to start using the various components of governance early so that skills and procedures are in place well ahead of the time they are strictly required.

Can you talk about service management and what it means in this context?

Service management has a design-time and a run-time perspective. During the design-time, a registry of available services and a repository of service assets assists greatly in establishing reuse and should be some of the very first governance components put in place.

Run-time services management, however, is traditionally not a part of SOA governance as it is handled, typically, by the technology platform that the service is deployed within. While not being an issue in the initial phases of an SOA deployment where services typically are only contained within a single technology platform, this rapidly becomes a huge challenge when services are contained in heterogeneous platforms.

To address this challenge TIBCO has pioneered a new technology called service-virtualisation that enables run-time management of services across heterogeneous platforms.

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