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SOA Book Excerpt: The First-Class Constructs of SOA - Part 3

Services, service components, and flows

In SOA, the main emphasis is on the identification of the right services followed by their specification and realization. Although some might argue that object-oriented analysis and design (OOAD) techniques can be used as a good starting point for services, its main emphasis is on microlevel abstractions. Services, on the other hand, are business-aligned entities and therefore are at a much higher level of abstraction than are objects and components.

In Part 1 of this book excerpt, we discussed the different layers of an SOA Reference Architecture, and in Part 2 we discussed Service Oriented Modeling and Architecture, and Part 3, we move on to the second phase in the method: specification of services.

Specification
The specification phase helps design the details of the three first-class constructs of SOA: services, service components, and flows. It uses a combination of three high-level activities to determine which services to expose, provides a detailed specification for the exposed services, and specifies the flows (processes) and service components. The three activities are called service specification, subsystem analysis, and component specification. From a service model work product standpoint, this phase provides the most content: The service exposure, service dependencies, service composition, service NFRs, service messages, and state management are all addressed in this phase. The rest of this section focuses on the three activities.

Service Specification
Service specification defines the dependencies, composition, exposure decisions, messages, QoS constraints, and decisions regarding the management of state within a service.

The first task concerns service exposure. The service portfolio had an exhaustive list of services obtained through the three techniques that we used for service identification. It is easy to comprehend that this list may contain too many candidate services; not all of them are at the right level of granularity to be exposed as services. Some of the service candidates may be too coarse-grained and might actually be more like business processes or subprocesses rather than individual services (for example, some of the process elements derived from the first level of process decomposition), whereas some others may be too fine-grained IT functions (for example, the process elements in the lowest level of process decomposition and some of the existing system functionality). Deciding to expose the entire list of candidate services is a perfect recipe for following a perfect antipattern in SOA - the service proliferation syndrome (a phenomenon we want to avoid). Some economic and practical considerations limit the exposure of all candidate services. A cost is associated with every service chosen for exposure. The funding of the entire service life cycle, the governance factor around service life-cycle management, and the added underlying infrastructure requirements to support security, scalability, performance, and other nonfunctional requirements make it impractical to follow the rules of economies of scale when it comes to exposing all candidate services.

Based on these premises, we recommend a service litmus test. The test consists of specific criteria applied to the candidate services. Only those services that meet the criteria are chosen for service exposure. The method provides an initial set of test criteria in the following form:

  1. Business alignment: A service must be business aligned. If a service is not, in some shape or form, traceable back to a business goal, it may not be an ideal candidate to be chosen for exposure.
  2. Composability: Tests the ability of a service to be used in a context entirely different from the one from which the service was originally identified. A service should be able to participate in multiple business processes without compromising the NFR compliance requirements for the process.
  3. Feasibility of implementation: Tests the technical feasibility of implementing the service in a cost- and time-effective manner. Practical considerations limit overly complex services to be commissioned for implementation.
  4. Redundancy elimination: Tests whether the service can be used within all processes and applications where its function is required.

More Stories By Tilak Mitra

Tilak Mitra is a Certified Senior IT Architect at IBM. He specializes in mid- to large-range enterprise and application architectures based on J2EE, MQ, and other EAI technologies. You can reach him at tmitra@us.ibm.com.

More Stories By Norbert Bieberstein

Norbert Bieberstein, solution architect for IBM's Enterprise Integration team, has extensive first-hand experience with customers migrating to SOA-based On-Demand solutions.

More Stories By Keith Jones

Keith Jones, PhD, IT architect at IBM Enterprise Integration Solutions, focuses on helping customers define and implement service-oriented architectures.

More Stories By Robert Laird

Robert Laird is an IT architect in IBM's SOA Advanced Technologies group.

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