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SOA is hot and everyone wants to talk about how it’s going to fundamentally change the way applications are built, data is accessed and trading partners communicate. They may very well be right, and given that I do security and not application architecture, I’m not going to spend any time explaining the benefits of SOA. Since you are hanging out on eBizQ, you should know a bit about SOA already. But an overlooked factor in this SOA revolution is the security question -- how is SOA going to impact security and what needs to be done to ensure the integrity of corporate data in a SOA-based world?

What’s the big deal anyway? Why is SOA so much different than existing application architectures? In a nutshell, in a simplistic two or three tiered web application context, you pretty much know who is consuming data and whether they have the proper authorization to do so. But if you tack up a web services interface on some of these data sources, all hell breaks loose. Any application from anywhere can now make calls against the data.

On a good day, that dramatically increases the type of authentication and authorization controls you’ll need to apply to those data sources. On a bad day, it exponentially increases the number of data consumers that need to be provisioned and managed. The ramifications to application security are almost as significant as the changes to application architecture.

So how do we go about securing these SOA things anyway? Basically, there are three places you can address SOA Security: the Gateway, the SOA platform, or within the SOA application container. To draw a security oriented analogy, this is very similar to email security which can be applied at the gateway, at the mail server, or at the client.

Approaches to SOA Security

SOA Security Gateway: A gateway provides a proxy for the XML traffic that enters the organization and applies a security policy to ensure properly formed requests and authentication.

SOA Platform: In providing management capabilities to a set of SOA applications, the Platform also provides some rudimentary security capabilities in terms of authentication and authorization.

SOA Container: Finally each application can build it’s own security functions directly into the application to take care of protecting the data.


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