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SOA - Integration Industry Pulse

Beth Gold-Bernstein

The Rise of Network Services

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This week I had an opportunity to speak with Lynn Lucas, Director, Enterprise Architecture Marketing and Chris Wiborg, Enterprise Architecture Marketing Manager, who are both part of Cisco's enterprise architecture marketing team. Their goal is to define the relevance of network services to Enterprise Architects and CIOs.

With the acquisitions of Reactivity and Securitant, Cisco has expanded its network services and created an architecture they call SONA - Service-Oriented Network Architecture.

The services offered include:

Cisco SOAN - detail.jpg

Of interest here is what Cisco separates into Exposed Services and Transparent Services. The transparent services are in light grey and indicate services which do not require application developers to specifically write API calls to. The services are automatically provided by the network. A big plus of this architecture is the virtualization services offered by the network. The network seems the right place for these services, making them pervasive and manageable. Exposed services have callable interfaces which application developers can use.

The management services are focused on traditional network management, monitoring packet loads. However, SONA also has the ability to do deep inspection on message traffic and correlate with data for upstream application level visibility and management.

While SONA has capabilities which overlap ESBs, according to Cisco, it does not compete with an ESB. The suggestion is that the network will provide better performance for some types of services, but Cisco did not provide specific guidelines, or ROI examples of which services perform better, are less expensive to deploy and manage, or increase business agility when they are deployed in the network. Also, Cisco did not share a implementation reference model of how these services are deployed. For example, Quality of Service is deployed in different Cisco offerings. Then the question arises of how you meet a business level service agreement which you have to correlate policies and run time management across many different layers in the architecture.

The real challenge is that SONA is a conceptual architecture, not a product or packaged solution. It is meant to give an overview of all the types of services they offer through the network. However, my hunch is that enterprise architects are going to need a little more help in determining where the real value of SONA lies for their organization. Anyone out there currently using network services? Are their use and benefits obvious to you?

This month Cisco announced an integrated offering with Microsoft of a "headless Windows Server."This is an implementation of a Microsoft Windows Server 2008 on Cisco's Wide Area Application Services (WAAS) network appliance. The solution improves the remote-office user experience of centralized applications through Cisco WAN optimization technology and helps customers lower IT costs by reducing the number of Windows-based physical servers required in remote offices. The Cisco WAAS wide-area network (WAN) optimization appliance offers virtualization capabilities for hosting Windows services in branch office environments. This type of packaged solution, which is an example of using SONA, is far easier to explain in terms of business use and value. Cisco also offers industry solutions that incorporate SONA concepts.

The last thing that puzzles me is why Cisco is targeting just CIOs and enterprise architects. If anyone would understand the value of having certain services in the network I would think it would be the network administrators. In the early days of designing distributed systems, I used to go in and talk to the networking guys, help them understand the new network demands of distributed applications, and encourage them to get involved early on in projects, BEFORE the application was deployed and suddenly brought the network to a crawl. I think it would be helpful for network administrators to get some tutoring on SOA, to understand the new types of applications being deployed across the networks, and work hand-in-hand with enterprise architects to develop the full set of infrastructure services needed to ensure the scalability, reliability, security and performance of new business solutions.

1 Comment

Beth - thanks for your posting. Happy that you pointed out that more tools should be developed to help architects determine where network-based services can be of most benefit to their organization. In addition to what can already be found at the following URL - http://www.cisco.com/go/architecture - there is much more planned for this site to provide precisely the type of guidance you suggest.

I also wanted to respond to your comment about taking the SONA conversation to network architects: we've in fact been doing that for some time now - but we've noticed that this has not been enough to get the word out. Especially as distributed applications become increasingly common - it is the IT architects that need to be made aware of the breadth of what the network and Cisco have to offer - and how such common infrastructure can be leveraged to their advantage. Not only can architects depend upon network services to improve the performance, security and reliability of their applications, but with the introduction of exposed services such as location and presence - they can look to the network to enhance the functionality of their applications as well.

Industry trends and vendor spotlights from Beth Gold-Bernstein.

Beth Gold-Bernstein

Beth Gold-Bernstein is a recognized expert in integration technologies and SOA with over 20 years experience View more

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