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Best Practices for SOA: Building a Data Services Layer

Choosing best-of-breed data access middleware is an important enabler of SOA

These days nearly every sizable organization has either implemented some form of SOA or has it on their roadmap. They quickly find that SOA efforts tend to expand like spider webs, eventually touching every corner of IT as well as the business itself. Due to the vital role that data plays both in business and systems operations, database architects, information specialists, data integration experts, and anyone responsible for data persistence in an organization are increasingly being called on to contribute to their organization’s SOA initiatives – whether or not this was intended at the onset.

Information locked away inside monolithic application silos has proven to be a stubborn obstacle to the flexibility that modern businesses require. If businesses are to have any hope of building flexible services that offer the performance and agility needed to succeed with SOA, those businesses must solve the technical challenge of accessing information – that is, data – across application platforms and their organization as a whole.

System architects who fail to devote sufficient planning to data access issues and attempt to layer a service-oriented approach on top of their existing data sources often find that providing flexibility above the service abstraction requires complex changes at the data source level, impeding the agility they sought and thereby undermining one of the core rationales for implementing SOAs in the first place.

In traditional distributed architectures, developers write a data access code, which they might then seek to make reusable. However, if a problem exists with this data access code, that problem essentially becomes propagated with adverse impact on any application that requires access to that particular data source. Furthermore, whenever anything changes — including the underlying database, the data model, or the version of the coding environment being used — the data access code must be updated everywhere it appears.

Considering that data sources can range from all kinds of structured data stores (such as relational databases, mainframe data sources, and enterprise applications) to semi- or unstructured data such as Web pages, PDF documents, office application files, XML documents, e-mail, media content, print streams, or a wide variety of content and data feeds and formats, it becomes clear that accessing and processing all these disparate types of information from so many disparate sources via the tightly coupled approach of traditional distributed data access would constitute a technical support challenge of monumental proportions.

More Stories By John Goodson

As vice-president of product operations, John Goodson leads the product strategy, direction, and development efforts at DataDirect Technologies. For more than 10 years, he has worked closely with Sun and Microsoft on the development and evolution of database connectivity standards including J2EE, JDBC, .NET, ODBC, and ADO. His active memberships in various standards committees, including the JDBC Expert Group, have helped Goodson's team develop the most
technically advanced data connectivity technologies. He holds a BS in computer science from Virginia Tech.

More Stories By Jason Bloomberg

Jason Bloomberg is the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise. As president of Intellyx, Mr. Bloomberg brings his years of thought leadership in the areas of Cloud Computing, Enterprise Architecture, and Service-Oriented Architecture to a global clientele of business executives, architects, software vendors, and Cloud service providers looking to achieve technology-enabled business agility across their organizations and for their customers. His latest book, The Agile Architecture Revolution (John Wiley & Sons, 2013), sets the stage for Mr. Bloomberg’s groundbreaking Agile Architecture vision.

Mr. Bloomberg is perhaps best known for his twelve years at ZapThink, where he created and delivered the Licensed ZapThink Architect (LZA) SOA course and associated credential, certifying over 1,700 professionals worldwide. He is one of the original Managing Partners of ZapThink LLC, the leading SOA advisory and analysis firm, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in 2011. He now runs the successor to the LZA program, the Bloomberg Agile Architecture Course, around the world.

Mr. Bloomberg is a frequent conference speaker and prolific writer. He has published over 500 articles, spoken at over 300 conferences, Webinars, and other events, and has been quoted in the press over 1,400 times as the leading expert on agile approaches to architecture in the enterprise.

Mr. Bloomberg’s previous book, Service Orient or Be Doomed! How Service Orientation Will Change Your Business (John Wiley & Sons, 2006, coauthored with Ron Schmelzer), is recognized as the leading business book on Service Orientation. He also co-authored the books XML and Web Services Unleashed (SAMS Publishing, 2002), and Web Page Scripting Techniques (Hayden Books, 1996).

Prior to ZapThink, Mr. Bloomberg built a diverse background in eBusiness technology management and industry analysis, including serving as a senior analyst in IDC’s eBusiness Advisory group, as well as holding eBusiness management positions at USWeb/CKS (later marchFIRST) and WaveBend Solutions (now Hitachi Consulting).

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