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Service Oriented Architecture 

The discussion on this page is based on the Service Oriented Architecture book and articles by Thomas Erl. [1] It is easy to ignore service-oriented business modeling and simply focus on service-orientation as it applies to technology and technical architecture. That, however, is missing the point of SOA. The architectural model established by SOA and further defined by the common principles of service-orientation provides the very real potential to finally unite the business and automation domains of an enterprise. [2].

Service-orientation allows a business to structure automated business logic that can significantly improve the flexibility and agility with which that logic can be re-modeled in response to change. Such an environment is responsive in that changes to business requirements or business processes can be efficiently accommodated through the re-composition of these services. 

SOA is based on principles of service reuse, loose coupling and service discoverability.

Business service modeling marries the principles of service-orientation with an organization's business models. The process of modeling business services forces the organization to view and reinterpret business knowledge in a service-oriented manner. The resulting perspective can clearly express how services relate to and embody the fulfillment of business requirements. There are three primary business service models   [3]

  • Entity-centric business service
  • Task-centric business service
  • Process service

Entity-centric business service The entity-centric business service model requires to group functionality according to a context associated with a predefined business entity or information set. Common business entities in academic institutions include student admission, course registration, financial aid processing, course grade report, graduation, refund calculation upon withdrawal, and various reporting requirements, including, SSCR and so on. AcademicEdge student system uses an entity-centric service model, in which, some of the above entities have been  implemented and enabled as a web services. 

The emergence of this service model is one of the most important developments in the evolution of service-oriented computing so far. It introduces new design, deployment and maintenance considerations that increase the complexity of an enterprise’s service architecture, but also provides the potential of realizing some of the significant strategic benefits associated with SOA. 

Business Process Management 

The concept behind BPM is to help organizations automate and optimize their business processes and performance. BPM products provide process modeling tools and key performance indicators to monitor and measure against operational targets. BPM encompasses both system and human workflows. [4] 

According to Stephanie Wilkinson, manager of WebSphere product marketing for IBM, "BPM is one of the main entry points for the business side of SOA. SOA is about building reusable services. BPM is focused on business processes and management and how you do modeling and monitoring. You want to do all that on top of an SOA so you have a flexible architecture. They will be tightly linked."  

According to Ron Schmelzer, a senior analyst at ZapThink LLC, over time BPM and SOA will become more complementary. "BPM in general is the idea that we can model a business in terms of its processes and then represent them in a way that computers can understand and process. SOA has as its fundamental core the idea that business processes should be represented as services and then exposed as services so that different applications can consume and compose them in a loosely coupled manner," he said. "This means that as companies move to adopt SOA, they will necessarily implement BPM solutions as service-oriented versions, representing processes as services and BPM tools simply as service-oriented composition applications."  

While BPM is independent of the underlying architecture, "the combination of BPM and SOA makes a killer platform," Mohindroo said. "It's easier to shorten the gap between the definition of a business process and execution with SOA. It's easier to pull and access applications in the back end and tie them to business processes. That is the direction we're moving with Oracle Fusion." [5] 

Oracle's BPEL Process Manager is part of the Fusion middleware suite. In addition, Mohindroo said Oracle Fusion applications, which will begin rolling out in 2008, will embed the BPEL Process Manager.  

While BPM may have started with workflow, SOA is helping to make end-to-end BPM possible, said Pierre Fricke, director of product management for JBoss, now a division of Red Hat Inc. "There are hundreds of vendors that solve BPM from a vertical angle, many started in the workflow arena," he said, "but all are quite limited and disjointed. There were no real standards before we got to an SOA fabric. Now we've got BPEL. You couldn't do end-to-end BPM before. You could [only] do pieces because the IT environment may have been incompatible. In the new world BPM can cross these silos lot easier than before."  

JBoss offers the jBPM system as part of its open source JBoss Enterprise Middleware Suite (JEMS). The 3.1 version added multiprocess language support and integration with JBoss Seam, the company's framework for building Java applications. "With jBPM you may have BPEL orchestration, but you also need Java process automation because not all services are Web services. Some may be Java endpoints," he said. 

"A lot of BPM suites have proprietary technology built in, but most BPM products are migrating toward open standards and most of the ESBs have a BPEL [Business Process Execution Language] engine," said Anne Thomas Manes, vice president and research director at Burton Group. "BPM has human workflow plus system workflow; BPEL is basically system-to-system workflow, but that's starting to merge." [6] 

Business Manager from Savvion Inc. in Santa Clara, Calif., is an example. An organization can publish its processes as services and subscribe to other services, which in turn can become part of their processes. Savvion's BPM Studio can publish that process in a UDDI directory.  


[1] Erl, Thomas, Service-Oriented Architecture: Concepts, Technology, and Design,   Prentice Hall/Pearson PTR, ISBN: 0131858580, 2006 <www.soabooks.com.>

[2] Erl, Thomas, “The benefits of business services”, 22 Feb 2006, <http://searchwebservices.techtarget.com/tip/1,289483,sid26_gci1168438,00.html?track=NL-588&ad=544028> 

[3] Erl, Thomas, “Business service models and the entity-centric business service”, 22 Mar 2006, <http://searchwebservices.techtarget.com/tip/1,289483,sid26_gci1174702,00.html?track=NL-588&ad=547678> 

[4] Frye, Colleen, “Special Report: BPM inside the belly of the SOA whale”, 15 Jun 2006, <http://searchwebservices.techtarget.com/originalContent/0,289142,sid26_gci1193780,00.html> 

[5] Frye, Colleen, “Special Report: BPM inside the belly of the SOA whale, part 2”, 22 Jun 2006, <http://searchwebservices.techtarget.com/originalContent/0,289142,sid26_gci1195582,00.html> 

[6] Frye, Colleen, “Special Report: BPM inside the belly of the SOA whale, part 3”, 29 Jun 2006, <http://searchwebservices.techtarget.com/originalContent/0,289142,sid26_gci1196723,00.html>

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