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Description and Overview

SOA - Description and Overview Definitions Commentators have provided multiple definitions of SOA. The OASIS group and the Open Group have both created formal definitions. OASIS defines SOA as the following: A paradigm for organizing and utilizing distributed capabilities that may be under the control of different ownership domains. It provides a uniform means to offer, discover, interact with and use capabilities to produce desired effects consistent with measurable preconditions and expectations.

Overview The SOA implementations rely on a mesh of software services. Services comprise unassociated, loosely coupled units of functionality that have no calls to each other embedded in them. Each service implements one action, such as filling out an online application for an account, or viewing an online bank statement, or placing an online booking or airline ticket order. Rather than services embedding calls to each other in their source code, they use defined protocols that describe how services pass and parse messages using description metadata. SOA developers associate individual SOA objects by using orchestration. In the process of orchestration the developer associates software functionality (the services) in a non-hierarchical arrangement using a software tool that contains a complete list of all available services, their characteristics, and the means to build an application utilizing these sources.

Underlying and enabling all of this requires metadata in sufficient detail to describe not only the characteristics of these services, but also the data that drives them. Programmers have made extensive use of XML in SOA to structure data that they wrap in a nearly exhaustive description-container. Analogously, the Web Services Description Language (WSDL) typically describes the services themselves, while the SOAP protocol describes the communications protocols. Whether these description languages are the best possible for the job, and whether they will become/remain the favorites in the future, remain open questions. As of 2008 SOA depends on data and services that are described by metadata that should meet the following two criteria:

The metadata should come in a form that software systems can use to configure dynamically by discovery and incorporation of defined services, and also to maintain coherence and integrity. For example, metadata could be used by other applications, like a catalogue, to perform auto discovery of services without modifying the functional contract of a service. The metadata should come in a form that system designers can understand and manage with a reasonable expenditure of cost and effort. SOA aims to allow users to string together fairly large chunks of functionality to form ad hoc applications that are built almost entirely from existing software services. The larger the chunks, the fewer the interface points required to implement any given set of functionality; however, very large chunks of functionality may not prove sufficiently granular for easy reuse. Each interface brings with it some amount of processing overhead, so there is a performance consideration in choosing the granularity of services.

The great promise of SOA suggests that the marginal cost of creating the n-th application is low, as all of the software required already exists to satisfy the requirements of other applications. Ideally, one requires only orchestration to produce a new application. For this to operate, no interactions must exist between the chunks specified or within the chunks themselves. Instead, humans specify the interaction of services (all of them unassociated peers) in a relatively ad hoc way with the intent driven by newly emergent requirements. Thus the need for services as much larger units of functionality than traditional functions or classes, lest the sheer complexity of thousands of such granular objects overwhelm the application designer.

Programmers develop the services themselves using traditional languages like Java, C, C++, C#, Visual Basic, COBOL, or PHP. SOA services feature loose coupling, in contrast to the functions that a linker binds together to form an executable, to a dynamically linked library or to an assembly. SOA services also run in "safe" wrappers (such as Java or .NET) and in other programming languages that manage memory allocation and reclamation, allow ad hoc and late binding, and provide some degree of indeterminate data typing. As of 2008, increasing numbers of third-party software companies offer software services for a fee. In the future, SOA systems may consist of such third-party services combined with others created in-house. This has the potential to spread costs over many customers and customer uses, and promotes standardization both in and across industries. In particular, the travel industry now has a well-defined and documented set of both services and data, sufficient to allow any reasonably competent software engineer to create travel-agency software using entirely off-the-shelf software services. Other industries, such as the finance industry, have also started making significant progress in this direction. SOA as an architecture relies on service-orientation as its fundamental design principle. If a service presents a simple interface that abstracts away its underlying complexity, users can access independent services without knowledge of the service's platform implementation.



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