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A challenge for enterprise-wide SOA is establishing the enterprise semantics (meaning) of data and a canonical (common) format for business objects. The semantics and canonical representations of business objects (such as the common XML schema representing a customer) form the Common Information Model needed to build the enterprise SOA.

The greatest challenge of creating the CIM is determining project scope. Starting with an enterprise scope will lead to a long-lived project with little or no business value in the early stages of the project. A limited CIM scope can result in canonicals that are likely to change as more systems are considered that where outside of the original scope.

A pragmatic approach to establish the initial scope of the CIM is to define an integration domain and start the CIM within a domain constraint. The domain of the integration, as defined by a context diagram and use cases (also integration design artifacts), establishes the domain model for data integration. Within the context of the domain, multiple data sources are mapped together to a canonical form. Canonical data formats then become part of the CIM. A simple definition of the CIM (for brevity) is a common externally-managed repository of data semantics that promotes reuse.

The domain approach does not preclude the use of industry standard schemas (e.g. OAG) or application specific ones (e.g. SAP IDocs). In the case of using standards there is still the concern of scope. For example, an integration domain might constrain the CIM problem to a geography eliminating the need for a world-wide committee to agree on the world view of business objects within a global corporation. Within the constrained domain if SAP were the dominate application then the business objects could look very much like schema representations of IDocs.

The advantage of limiting the scope of the CIM to an integration domain is the early delivery of SOA related projects and application integrations. By decomposing the CIM into domains it is possible to iteratively add to the CIM as more systems are added to the enterprise SOA. This however presents a new problem, but one that is more easily solved, namely canonicals are likely to change as the CIM is expanded.

With respect to data transformation, private processes will expose services as an XML representation of the native interface. Transformation from the native XML representation to the native interface occurs in the private process. Private business objects are tightly coupled to the application interface; therefore, it is more practical for the developer to map the private business object directly to the application schema that will be consuming the data. Public processes provide a fully enumerated, constrained and documented interface based on the CIM. Transformation between the public interface and the private process occurs in the public process. The concepts of public and private processes are essentially an abstraction mechanism and therefore fit well within SOA. The private processes are fine grained and application specific and the public processes are course grained encapsulating the fine grained services thus promoting reuse and hiding complexity and change.


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