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SOA is Ready for Prime Time: Talking With JBoss

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Listen to my podcast with Pierre Fricke, the Director of SOA Products for the JBoss Division of RedHat. In this podcast we discuss SOA and government, both the big challenges and the big rewards that await, and make sure you tune into the SOA in Action Virtual Conference coming Oct. 28-29, where this subject will be covered much more in-depth.

Listen to or download the 8:18 minute podcast below:

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PS: So how is government dealing with the implementation of SOA?

PF: So the government's faced with -- and the government's actually multiple levels of government. There's federal level governments, and not just the United States. There's federal level governments, there's state and local level government, and so forth. The federal government is broke up in civilian and military. Both sides of the federal level governments have opportunities and challenges associated with operating their government agencies in terms of proving efficiency.

If one thing that we see in government at that level is, there's tons and tons of paper and tons and tons of documentation. And SOA is an ideal way to automate the workflows, integrate the data to handle the dealing with this paperwork in a more integrated and automated fashion. And keep in mind, I'm using the term SOA here, I'm not just talking about Web services based SOA, I'm talking about this current generation, next generation SOA where you can integrate files transfers, you can integrate SOAP, and Web services, JMS, you can integrate various scripting languages services, rule-based services, all kinds of things. It's a very flexible event-driven SOA is what I'm talking about.

And the government can really take advantage of this because of the breath of it, the ability to integrate its various applications, and information, and then automate the workflows so that government can become more efficient and more responsive to voters. And at the state and local level, it's a little bit different. The state and local level, they have some of these same challenges, particularly, they evolve around changing regulations associated with benefit programs whether it be unemployment. We keep seeing these extensions on unemployment. There's welfare type things. There's various motor vehicle, real estate, property tax things, a lot of things that are in change, in a state of flux.

And they said that the state and local government can integrate its IT applications that support these things using SOA, which gives them the ability to response change more rapidly and they'll be better off and spend less money over time even though they have to spend an upfront investment, they'll spend less money over time operating their government agency. And it's particularly important at the state and local level because unlike the federal level they can't print money. And in fact, a lot of state and local governments are sort of gravitating not just to SOA but subscription-based SOA driven by open source.

When you think government. You definitely think that with SOA some of the greatest rewards await government. But also, you think some of the biggest challenges would also be in implementing SOA with government. Can you discuss some of these challenges?

Yeah, so we start talking about some the stovepipe applications that support their various agencies that have to work together, for example, in the Homeland Security type environment. Obviously, the government hasn't published externally what they do at Homeland Security in detail, but we certainly know that our whole operations on that front cover internal intelligence, foreign intelligence, various other type of domestic and foreign programs, there's CIA, there's NSA, there's all these agencies and they have to work together.

And the way that they're going to have to work together is to integrate their siloed application and data sets such that these things can be brought together to serve new purposes and deal with new threats and new opportunities as they present themselves to our Homeland Security Agents and Intelligence Programs. So that's probably the biggest thing. It's really the integration of applications assets and IT assets across organizations is where SOA can bring greater flexibility.

When I think of government, I think of all the old legacy systems and applications. So how do you overcome all of these legacy issues?

Any organization that's had any length tenure, and certainly our government's been around a long time, has built up sort of layered IT infrastructure some of which can be 30 and 40 years older, God help us, maybe even older than that in some cases. Some of that stuff can be retired but a lot of it can't or they don't want to. And then actually, a lot it, particularly, when you get to mainframe level COBOL applications and forward from that point on.

A lot of things can actually be reused with standard based interfaces based on Web service wrappers around the types of things you want access so you can publish some of these things as Web services and they can be reused in multiple business processes, or government processes, and made a lot more accessible to government agencies, and people like that that have to use these mainframe type assets. Another way of courses is, again, a next generation enterprise service bus that's not just Web services focused but can also do old EAI and bring the application integration techniques into an SOA using adaptive technology and plugging it into a ESB. You can also do that and the government could take advantage of that capability, marrying sort of the past technologies with present and being prepared for the future.

Can you give me like a real use example of SOA being implemented into the government?

Oh yes, there's a bunch we could talk about. But let's talk about a state situation that I think one of JBoss colleagues will be talking about in more detail next week, where the government agency has to deal with various law enforcement type issues. As we were talking, they've got lots of siloed applications, they got lots of silo'd data sets. The way these things they are brought together to deal with regulation, or deal with new laws, or new programs, or whatever it might be, new situations is difficult if you're not using Service Oriented Architecture these things are hard coded point-to-point or worse.

These things are being integrated manually with paper, which causes all kinds of errors and problems and errors and slow responsiveness. If you can integrate these things, use an SOA taking advantage of EAI technology in the adaptor case to the mainframes or (inaudible) some of things Web service in a SOA type integration scenario. In some cases, they're comfortable doing one EAI in some places and SOA type integration in another place depending on performance, characteristics, skill sets, and what kind of code they're talking about on these legacy assets.

They need to bring these things together and then they can codify workflows and business processes and something like her JBPM, or BPEL, Business Process Execution Language to manage the workflows such that they have an audit trail that can drive the work a lot faster, reduce expenses, and this is a state levels were states need to save money. The states are going to have to (inaudible) technologies so save more money and be more responsive to voters who are becoming angrier and angrier as services get cut as taxes get raised, governments going to be under -- these state and local governments are going to be under pressure to respond more rapidly with dealing with crime, moving things through the court system, stuff like that and SOA can certainly help a lot.

What do you see for the future of SOA and government?

I think we're just getting started. SOA has been around in its current form since the birth of Web services at the beginning of this decade. It's mature from just a bunch of Web services into a more formal SOA architectural approach that can handle the integration scenarios we've been talking about. By mid-decade, we're starting to see -- we're passed the earlier adopter phase. There certainly earlier adopters in government that forged the way over the last five years.

Now, we're starting to see it expand and we're seeing it also expand to an open source. I think particularly at the state and local level but also at the federal level and particularly with the new administration that's come in with President Obama at the federal level, there's a real focus on reducing costs both in terms of leveraging SOA and techniques and integration in removing pain points, manual pain points, and integration pain points, but also getting a high quality experience from your IT vendor and using open source to reduce cost and the subscription model which does that as well. So I think we're seeing a lot more -- this downturn particularly at the state and local level but now the federal governments looking at reducing expenses as well. They're really looking at the subscription model open source and now sees that is come into its own and now it's ready for prime time.

Excellent info, Pierre. I want to remind everyone listening to tune into the SOA in Action Virtual Conference, which is this October 28th and 29th. Thank you so much for joining me today Pierre.

ebizQ’s expert blog team covers a broad range of BPM, business integration, business analytics/monitoring, collaboration, content and related issues.

Peter Schooff

Peter Schooff is Contributing Editor at ebizQ, and manager of the ebizQ Forum. Contact him at pschooff@techtarget.com

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