webMethods: SOA Master Class Bridges Skills Gap

SOA architects and devs must bridge an SOA skills gap to benefit from the coming wave of SOA rampups, says webMethods?vice president Miko Matsumura. webMethods (with ZapThink) has created an online SOA Master Class, bringing "SOA Masters?from many disciplines to offer videos, tutorials, patterns, advice and even Web 2.0 blogs for teacher-student exchange. IDN speaks with Matsumura about the SOA gap and the SOA Master Class.

Tags: SOA, Governance, Architects, Business, SOA Master, Patterns, Master Class,


SOA architects and devs need to bridge an SOA skills gap, if they will truly benefit from the coming wave of SOA build outs, says webMethods' vice president Miko Matsumura. Working with analyst firm ZapThink LLC, webMethods has created an online SOA Master Class, recruiting "SOA Masters" across many disciplines to offer video lectures, hands-on tutorials, patterns, advice and even Web 2.0 blogs for teacher-student exchange.

Architects and devs can participate in SOA Master Class Online, called SOAMasterClass.com, for free. They can take classes from a formal curriculum, do deep research on a number of SOA disciplines or just visit to get a very specific while working on an SOA. SOAMasterClass.com also serves as an online community for sharing best practices and collective problem solving. Additional resources available to the SOA Master Class Online community include white papers, analyst research, case studies, live events, reviews, blueprints, evaluation guides, wiki's, and FAQs.

Moving from a 3-tier architecture to SOA requires more than simply moving from tightly-coupled integration to loosely-coupled services, Matsumura contends. "In pursuing SOA mastery, the SOA Master Class curriculum focuses on providing practitioners with the ability to move from the tactical - service orchestration - to the strategic - managing outcomes."

Inherent within this approach, Matsumura adds, is delivering the uniformity, consistency and measurability that are required to ensure that services meet consumer's preconditions and expectations. The SOAMasterClass.com offers info on
  • SOA Foundation (including Basic Definitions and Reference Architecture from a vendor-neutral perspective); and
  • SOA Governance including a detailed walkthrough of SOA-specific governance concepts, practices and implementations, and many aspects of
  • SOA Lifecycle (including Appropriate Governance, Contracts Metaphor, Design-time Policies/Run-time Governance, Change-time Governance, SOA Information Models, Federated SOA and Go-Live Rollout Strategies).

    IDN discusses the overall skills gap with Matsumura, learns how architects and devs can best make the transition from J2EE and .NET projects, and takes a quick tour of SOAMasterClass.com.

    Integration Developer News interview with
    Miko Matsumura, VP, SOA Product Marketing and
    Technology Standards,
    webMethods, Inc.


    TOPIC: 'Enlightened SOA Architects'
    IDN: Miko, you've written in your blog SOA Education will be hot in 2007 "as the shortage of "'Enlightened Architects' rears its ugly head." In your view what skills make for an "Enlightened Architect"?

    Matsumura: I've also used the phrase "visionary architect", but I really like the connotations of the word "enlightened". It evokes the idea of being highly educated, as in "an enlightened public", while at the same time suggesting a transcendental aspect to this knowledge.

    To some extent, SOA enlightenment comes from knowledge of a basic canonical set of teachings, which we have offered on the SOA Master Class site as the free SOA Foundation course and free SOA Governance courses.

    But beyond having mastery of the basic patterns, definitions and implementation practices around SOA, the enlightened architect has enough pragmatic knowledge of human individual and organizational behavior that they can begin to educate, illuminate, evangelize, coerce, encourage and otherwise motivate their organization as the central change agent for the SOA transformation. We feature some SOA Masters on our site whose teachings we have learned from over the years and who we feel can help move people down the path towards SOA Mastery.

    TOPIC: SOA Master Class Approach
    IDN: How is your approach in the SOA Master Class different from other firms that simply advise architects to learn more about IT and business?

    Matsumura: The SOA Master Class approach is different from anything I've seen out there, because it offers the free download of the Infravio X-Registry product as the nucleus or "backboard" for architects trying to "re-think" they way their organization does IT. So instead of just talking about how SOA can transform your Enterprise IT systems, we show you how to do it.

    By adding the pragmatic hands-on experience with the leading SOA Governance Registry Repository product in the market, we feel that we are offering the collected wisdom of all of the hundreds of engineering years that our technical staff have put into meeting the requirements of our existing customer base. This wisdom is embedded in how the product works, and we are delighted to be able to show it off in this way. SOA Governance is subtle, sometimes complex and requires a different way of thinking.

    The other aspect of our approach which I feel is important is the overall approachability of the site. We want the site to be very friendly, open and accessible. All of the content on the site is free (some requires some registration), and the content is divided into consumable components. Because of this, nobody with the word "Architect" on their business card has to admit to anyone that they don't yet "get it" when it comes to lifecycle governance, or nobody has to raise their hand in front of a classroom of peers and say "I don't understand".

    I've found that the vast majority of people will learn SOMETHING new by perusing our site and trying our products out.

    Perhaps someone will consume a short tutorial during their lunch hour, then in the afternoon have something pithy and career-enhancing to say at their next internal planning meeting. We do want to entertain, delight, educate and in fact, advance the careers of the people perusing our site. We challenge other vendors to follow and imitate our model and to combine community, guidance, education, best practices with a freely available version of their products. The end users can only learn and benefit from it.

    TOPIC: Tips for SOA
    IDN: Do you have tips for how IT can identify which SOA technologies (or patterns) will be most valuable? And, which ones may become dead-ends?

    Matsumura: All of the SOA patterns stem from the basic patterns we teach in the SOA Foundation 101 course on the SOA Master Class site. OASIS defines SOA as something that "provides a uniform means to offer, discover, interact with and use capabilities..."

    The act of discovering, interacting with and using services are consistent with the consumer patterns of Discovery and Consumption. The act of offering and interacting with services corresponds to the provider patterns of Registration and Provision. This is where things get interesting.

    Providers of services are really where the valuable technologies come into play--and what logically emerges is the need to manage the provider side of services. This management covers both the Registration provider pattern (via registries) and the Provision pattern (via intermediaries/brokers). So Registration pattern is enhanced by creating "super registries" that manage not only discovery, but validation, approval, federation, promotion, access control, classification, ornamentation, instrumentation, lifecycle processes and many of the other governance requirements for SOA.

    So we look to the "super registry" to provide a lot of these functions. This product provides an entire nucleus to a new way of designing, developing deploying and changing services. Because of this, the product becomes fairly subtle and complex as it is inherently multi-tenant, multi-role, multi-organizational, federated and managed. This is why we offer the free download of the Infravio X-Registry Master Class Edition on the site. The intermediation pattern helps to manage the service consumption pattern from the provider's side. We do have the X-Broker product for this function, but we find that there's less need to educate users on runtime governance, as the features of Web Services Management intermediaries are pretty well known in the industry.

    In short, the most valuable technologies support and manage the fundamental patterns within SOA, so look for things that can help you provide better managed higher quality services to your service consumers--via super registries or via brokers or intermediaries. There's a lot of buzz about the "Enterprise Service Bus", which is really just another form of intermediary. Other areas picking up steam include SOA Testing which is very much about managing the Provisioning of services (in the broadest sense of provisioning).

    TOPIC: Architects' Role in Business Process
    IDN: You also make the case that SOA architects' main goals are to "define organizational structures for success." Does this mean you believe SOA architects, when "enlightened" will play a bigger role in co-developing business processes/flows with business execs?

    Matsumura: Wonderful question. Obviously pointing out the need for "enlightened" business executives as well. This is what we are seeing happening at webMethods Infravio where the cliché of "business IT alignment" is taking place between SOA architects and more business process focused business leaders. In order to sit down and have a rational conversation about SOA and business, it's important that SOA architects are not just "enlightened" to the benefits of SOA, but also conversant in the language, philosophy and culture of business.

    One thing we know from talking to our customers is that for most organizations, the approach that money needs to be spent on architecture for it's own sake, or because it's cool technology is a lousy approach. One architect at a conference complained "all they care about is money", which to a certain extent describes it. But instead of looking at that as an impediment, it really asks that technical people step up to leadership roles that involve explaining the business benefits of SOA--many of which we have seen can be expressed through business processes. Just saying the words "business agility" isn't enough of course, it's key to be able to translate the benefits of SOA down to specific business problems in your organization.

    The idea of co-development is central to SOA. Business users cant "develop" business processes in PowerPoint that are divorced from the IT infrastructure no matter how tempting it is. Despite system integrators making lots of money off of each "one off" business process implementation project, the benefits of this approach are limited. Also, IT infrastructure cant keep steaming ahead blindly ignoring the need for the business to achieve at least some level of participation (or degree of self-service). The key is to balance the needs and capabilities in such a way that development, operations and business people can all work together effectively.

    TOPIC: Iterative Techniques for SOA Governance
    IDN: SOA Governance can intimidate many IT shops with its complexity and size. Can architects use "iterative" techniques for Governance? If so, suggest how to get started?

    Matsumura: I think the intimidation factor is a large inhibitor to adoption. Even the name of it suggests a combination of the boring and/or painful trip to the dentist. One of the "tag lines" I'm using for the SOA Governance Podcasts available on SOA Master Class Online (for registered users) is "4.35% less boring". This is obviously a tongue in cheek way of describing, and personalizing the experience of learning about SOA Governance.

    "Governance" by itself is a frame of mind, and one that has many facets including corporate governance, business governance, IT governance etc. SOA Governance is a much more specific aspect, and is inclusive of lots of things specific to SOA. The good news is that SOA Governance is conceptually simple, although it is difficult in terms of implementation. Conceptually, if all of your services do exactly what they say they will do, everything will work. That doesn't always hold true, but it's a measurable starting point for governance.

    Taking that as the basis of establishing governance, then the key questions become:
  • How do we define the promises made by our services (SLA and contracts)? What do the service consumers expect?
  • How do we measure the performance of our services against those expectations (key performance indicators)?
  • How do we continuously test the quality of services through change (testing)?
  • How do we secure, transform, load balance and route service traffic? (run time governance)
  • How do we validate, approve and promote services into production? (design time governance)
  • How do we design services for interoperability, security and reuse? (design time governance)
  • How do we manage change? (change time governance)
  • How do we manage the lifecycle of a service (lifecycle governance)
  • How do we define interoperability and security within our multi-organizational SOA? (federated governance


  • I know that seems like a lot of questions. But if you get a group of concerned parties together (you can call yourself a "competency center" if that makes you feel more important) and can collectively agree to a set of answers to the questions above, I think you are well on your way to establishing good governance of your SOA.

    ========================

    Miko Matsumura is Vice President of SOA Product Marketing and Technology Standards at webMethods, and also serves as chair of the SOA Adoption Blueprints Technical Committee at OASIS. He is the organizer of the SOA Link Interoperability Initiative. Miko regularly speaks throughout the world on SOA issues, as well as blogs at www.SOAcenter.com. Matsumura also served as Vice President of Marketing and Technology Standards at Infravio, prior to webMethods' acquiring that firm. Many IDN readers may remember Matsumura emerged as an industry thought-leader at The Middleware Company, where he was a co-creator responsible for building the partner program for SOA Blueprints, the first complete vendor-neutral specification of an SOA application set, supported by BEA, Borland, HP, Microsoft, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, Veritas and others.




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