The Merging of SOA and Web 2.0
By Darryl K. Taft
July 15, 2007
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Dan Cahoon was looking for a way to streamline staffing operations at tax company H&R
Block, the nation's largest seasonal employer. Rather than use traditional desktop-based
software for the job, the senior systems architect at H&R Block was able to deliver SOA-
connected AJAX portlets to more than 12,000 branch offices for temporary work spaces to
meet the company's staffing needs.
Cahoon's example illustrates the growing trend of merging Web 2.0 technologies with SOA
(service-oriented architecture) to address issues normally handled through PC-based software,
resulting in faster, cheaper and more flexible solutions.
"Web 2.0 is used in many ways but predominantly has two aspects—one social, the other
technical," said Kevin Hakman, director of developer evangelism at TIBCO Software, in Palo
Alto, Calif. H&R Block is a TIBCO customer and used TIBCO products for its SOA deployment.
"On the social side, Web 2.0 is about a phenomenon of shifting the publishing power out to
users and away from centrally controlled publishing processes," Hakman said. "The ability for
users to blog and syndicate their posts, the notion of a wiki as a collaboration amongst users,
[and] the evolving idea of a mashup as something the user can assemble from existing Web
parts and data are all examples of the power to compose being provided to the many."
to improve ease of use make it even simpler for users to compose blogs and assemble
mashups, Hakman said. Desktop-installed software increasingly is being displaced through the
use of AJAX and services, he said.
"Google Docs and Yahoo Mail Plus are examples of this, substantially providing the core
features of Microsoft Word, Excel and Outlook," Hakman said.
Two of the industry's hottest
buzzwords are combining to fuel one of
the hottest emerging trends in the
industry—the use of Web 2.0
technologies acting as front ends to
SOA back-end environments.
This trend touches on RIAs (rich Internet applications), mashups, AJAX, RSS, REST
(Representational State Transfer) and other Web 2.0 areas. Now being referred to as
Enterprise 2.0, the Web 2.0 technologies are helping to create rich interactive front ends to
SOA back-end systems. In addition, line-of-business users who typically are nondevelopers
can take services and build mashups without IT involvement—a potential boon for productivity
but also a possible problem without proper governance.
"What's really changing is the impact that Web 2.0 technologies are having on SOA—in fact,
changing the approaches," said Dan Hushon, chief technology officer at EMC's Grid Business
Unit, in Hopkinton, Mass. "Web 2.0 concepts and technologies may, over time, displace the
WS-* stack in many cases.
"For example, where we used to see SOAP [Simple Object Access Protocol] and JSON
JSON/REST," Hushon said. "And, in fact, REST, with its more data-centric approach, may very
well prove to be better aligned with the need for collaborating around data. However, systemic
security remains an Achilles' heel for REST."
Experts say virtualization will play a key role in the growing SOA movement. Click
here to read more.
John Crupi, CTO at JackBe, which sells Web 2.0 solutions, said the wave of consumer
technologies is driving into the enterprise.
"We're transforming from an application-centric enterprise to Web 2.0, which is putting the
user in charge," said Crupi in Chevy Chase, Md. "Users can create, consume, customize,
collaborate. They can access all information anywhere, anytime on any browser. I used to say
the 'A' in SOA is AJAX; now I say the 'M' in SOA is mashup. Enterprise mashups are user-
driven and user-focused."
Ronald Schmelzer, an analyst with ZapThink, said mashups complement SOA. "You're getting
capabilities or functionality from a Web application and combining it with another capability,
and mashups are made a heck of a lot simpler if they're made of services that are service-
oriented," Schmelzer said. "It's also a plus because of the user interaction."
The new Web 2.0-enabled enterprise is sort of "like the long-tail approach—there is more
opportunity in catering to a mass of niches than a niche of masses," Schmelzer said.
Enterprises can use Web 2.0 and SOA to enable line-of-business staff to create hundreds of
applications that will benefit many in their organizations. "The downside to all this freedom is
the control," Schmelzer said. "The problem is, if you build all these services, how do you
prevent people from doing harm?"
Nexaweb Technologies, in Burlington, Mass., has a potential answer. After studying the
market, Nexaweb decided to partner with companies in such areas as systems integration,
governance, infrastructure, service composition and business process management, and
testing, said Nexaweb CTO Coach Wei. Nexaweb supports mashup assembly, development and
processing. Yet mashups need governance, Wei said, and that's where the partnerships come
"We thought about it and said that mashups by their nature are against governance, and if
you apply governance to mashups, it will kill them. But mashups need governance in the
enterprise space," Wei said.
So Nexaweb implemented an SOA governance strategy and is taking the next step of
establishing an enterprise Web 2.0 SOA ecosystem in which the company is trying to leverage
capabilities already out on the market, Wei said. "This is just the first step," he said. "In the
next few months, we'll continue to push partnerships and integration with a variety of SOA
vendors. By combining our product with the SOA infrastructure, we can provide a robust
Vinod Pabba, CEO of Inkriti, a Framingham, Mass., technology consulting company and
provider of Web 2.0 solutions for customer-centric e-business, said his company rebuilt a Web
site for The Sports Club/LA using Web 2.0 technologies and SOA. The Boston-based club
wanted to launch a new Web site to improve interaction with its 30,000 customers around the
country, Pabba said.
The club's Web site communicated data to the company's Salesforce.com CRM (customer
relationship management) system via Web services, and "there were a ton of Web 2.0
technologies," Pabba said. "The entire site is heavily AJAX-driven, the forms are very heavily
AJAX-driven and the Web services are called via AJAX interfaces. And the AJAX pieces of the
system were done with Nexaweb's technology."
Pabba said that in most of Inkriti's Web 2.0 implementations, users are aware of key Web 2.0
trends and specifically ask about areas such as content and community. "But they don't
specifically ask for Web services or SOA," he said.
Eugene Ciurana, director of systems infrastructure of LeapFrog Enterprises, in
Emeryville, Calif., said Web 2.0 focuses on using computing resources in more community-
oriented applications rather than displaying information in a flat, disconnected format. Yet
users "in the wild" are also familiar with sites such as YouTube and Digg, which provide
community and interactivity features via Web 2.0 technologies, Ciurana said.
Enterprises are beginning to integrate applications in mashups and following examples from
the consumer world, Ciurana said. In many cases, the mashups' data or information sources
have incompatible formats so integration becomes a problem. "Thus, [by] applying SOA
technologies such as ESBs [Enterprise Service Buses], adapters, transformers, and lookup
services like UDDI [Universal Description, Discovery and Integration], it becomes possible to
create enterprise mashups," Ciurana said.
LeapFrog's technology platform is a mashup of commercial and open-source technologies,
Ciurana said. "LeapFrog is expanding its Internet presence by enabling many of our products
to be Internet-ready," he said. "The applications provide a number of services in the form of
data that gets mashed up and presented to the user."
LeapFrog designs, develops and markets technology-based educational products. "Our first
mashup is the Fly Fusion pentop computer system. It can work stand-alone and download
content and applications from the Internet," Ciurana said.
Fly Fusion interacts with the Internet through a desktop computer and uses several Web
services to communicate with its dedicated site, an on-line store and educational materials,
Ciurana said. The site and materials are fed by a content management system. The online
store is a mashup of a dedicated Wicket application, hosted by LeapFrog, and a third-party
order-and-payment-processing system running over SOAP. Everything is connected using the
open-source Mule ESB as the backbone, Ciurana said.
"There are a few enterprises trying these things out, but I suspect it'll be between 18 to 24
months before we see wide adoption in the enterprise or in the mainstream e-commerce
sites," he said. "If you look at the Big 3 online retailers, for example, Amazon and eBay are
already mashing up content and applications with—or for—third parties."
"More conservative retailers like Walmart.com are still a single destination with few Web 2.0
features in the front end but have probably adopted SOA for their back-end systems, creating
an 'enterprise application mashup' from all the heterogeneous systems and integrating them
over ESBs and other backbones rather than point to point," Ciurana said. "It's coming [but]
just not quite there yet."
Hal Stern, a distinguished engineer at Sun Microsystems, in Santa Clara, Calif., said he sees "a
nice intersection of Web 2.0 things and the amalgamation of more classical enterprise-scale
applications. You have to think about the concept of RESTful SOA. On the client side, there's
typically some RESTful architecture, but there are typically multiple options there."
Jason Bloomberg, an analyst with ZapThink, said SOA is not about connecting things but,
rather, enabling business processes and continual change. The goal is to allow users to build
applications out of services, Bloomberg said. "We're really talking about service automation,"
Bloomberg said. "Service-oriented business applications [SOBAs] are composite applications
[made up] of services that implement a business process."
SOA puts greater power into the hands of the business user, and "SOBAs are most appropriate
when the business requires exceptional flexibility," Bloomberg said. "What's happening now in
the SOA world is we're reaching the services tipping point—from a focus on building services
to consuming services. This has given rise to the mashup. A mashup is a flexible composition
of services within a rich user interface environment."
Governance is key to the enterprise mashup, Bloomberg said. Without it, mashups are
dangerous. "Without SOA, mashups are toys," he said. "Some business users will build
mashups as tools mature. The tools are still too technical. There will be an expanding role for
business analysts, but for now IT will do the mashing up for the business. The majority of
business users will not do any applications."
JackBe's Crup said the real reason SOAs emerged was that integration costs were too high.
"Business doesn't care about SOA," Crup said. "Business doesn't care if it's two cans and a
string holding their stuff together. Business wants to be able to bring their stuff to the
JackBe enables development of Enterprise 2.0 applications with its Presto family of solutions
that leverage SOA and Web 2.0 technologies.
Thomas Kurian, senior vice president of development for Oracle's middleware platform
products, said there are three key trends in the market: SOA, Web 2.0 and grid computing.
"[With Web 2.0,] the way users access enterprise applications is changing," said Kurian in
Redwood Shores, Calif. "It uses a common UI that combines transactional behavior and
collaborative behavior, and this is through a browser."
Chris Morino, CEO of SnapLogic, said there is a REST interface between each component in the
SnapLogic platform. SnapLogic, of San Mateo, Calif., makes open-source Internet data
"We're taking the data and putting it into a form that looks like RSS," Morino said. "We have a
UI that looks like Yahoo Pipes except it's not just for RSS. It's like Yahoo Pipes for enterprise
data or Yahoo Pipes for everybody's data."
Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive for IBM Software, in Armonk, N.Y., said,
"When SOA meets Web 2.0, it brings the people impact into the picture. We're leveraging
things like RSS and Atom for this. We think there's tremendous leverage around Web 2.0.
People need to get at information in real time, and personal impact is going to have a big
impact on SOA technologies."
The classic Web 2.0 examples of creating mashups from diverse content are what users think
about, Mills said. "This is where the information assets and people productivity issues come
together," he said.
John deVadoss, director of architecture strategy at Microsoft, in Redmond, Wash., said SOA
and Web 2.0 are two sides of the same coin: Both leverage services and messaging and
interact with composite applications. In addition, deVadoss said, Web 2.0 delivers search, rich
content, services management and collaboration, while, on the SOA side, Microsoft's BizTalk
Server enables service orchestration.
Microsoft brings three perspectives to the equation, deVadoss said. One is that the .Net
Framework enables the use of WS-* and the more commonly used REST model. ASP.Net and
SharePoint bring in the consumption angle and enable search and discovery, as well as
collaboration. Then there is Microsoft's Web 2.0 and SOA tooling, which includes ASP.Net
AJAX—the company's AJAX tool—and Silverlight for RIA development, deVadoss said.
"The Web 2.0 model is able to consume and interact with business services, and with
Silverlight these can be [RIAs]," deVadoss said. "This integration is how you make SOA come
Even Microsoft's simple-to-use mashup tool, Popfly, has a role.
"Composition is the classical theme from an application-model perspective for the
[foreseeable] future," deVadoss said. "I see a spectrum of composition—from lightweight
mashups to Office Business Applications. We'll cover enthusiasts all the way to professional