GIF vs SOA Link — duelling standards

At a recent conference, panellists were grilled on why there is more than one SOA governance movement underway

Does the world really need two separate industry initiatives devoted to interoperability in SOA (service-oriented architecture) governance? Panellists from technology companies in the governance field debated this question at the Burton Group Catalyst Conference, held in San Francisco earlier this month.

The two SOA initiatives under the spotlight were the Governance Interoperability Framework (GIF) and SOA Link, each of which is geared toward registries by the companies that began the initiatives, Systinet and Infravio.

GIF was founded by Systinet in April 2005. It features companies such as Actional, Hewlett-Packard and Reactivity. SOA Link was organised by Infravio and counts as participants companies such as JBoss and Iona. HP is also a member, and thus has a foot in both camps.

Both Infravio and Systinet were represented on the SOA governance panel. Moderator Anne Thomas Manes, a Burton Group analyst, asked why there couldn’t be just one initiative.

Infravio’s Miko Matsumura, vice president of marketing and technology standards at the company, didn’t directly comment on why there needs to be two efforts.

“Everyone is familiar with our economic system and, clearly, competition is something that helps enrich everybody’s products, and provides choice for customers,” he told the audience.

After Matsumura explained SOA Link, noting its focus on governance interoperability, Manes replied that the initiative sounds like GIF. “Why is it that you didn’t just join GIF?” she asked, noting she herself had worked at Systinet.

Matsumura responded, “I had a conversation with the Systinet guys and I think we just decided it didn’t make sense for us at the time and that is that.”

Systinet’s founder and vice president of products, Roman Stanek, says it will be up to consumers and partners to decide what to support. A GIF 2 release is being developed which will feature a more extensive set of APIs and standards.

But panellist Charles Stack, chief executive of Flashline, countered with, “It doesn’t benefit to have a standard that is not a standard.”

GIF is to be submitted to a standards body, Stanek claims.

“The goal of GIF and the goal of SOA Link is actually to make the whole lifecycle visible,” he says. Systinet is now owned by Mercury Interactive.

Panellist Brent Carlson, vice president of technology at LogicLibrary, says major vendors will put their own stamps on governance. “They will put their fingerprints all over the place.” He says GIF has the backing of HP and BEA Systems.

In other discussions, panellists cited definitions of SOA governance. “The most accurate approach to SOA is it’s really two different things,” Charles Stack said. Governance features a macro level, to ensure that the right services are built, as well as a lower micro level, in which services are built to be interoperable, to comply with standards and to be secure, he says.

Gregg Bjork, chief executive of WebLayers, made this observation: “SOA governance — you can certainly google it and you’ll find a lot of different answers.”

Also at the conference, Benjamin Moreland, director of foundation services at The Hartford insurance company, cited his company’s SOA strategy.

“What we have learned at The Hartford is that SOA is much broader than standards and technology,” Moreland says.

“The focus [at] The Hartford is on architecture and it’s on standards and on business agility. We have never done SOA for the sake of SOA.”

In building an SOA, The Hartford sought to lower IT costs, increase the ease of doing business, improve speed to market and increase agility. The company knows the independent agents it works with are driven by the ease of doing business, he says.

“They will use the few [business partners] that they know so they can get the quote, and service maintained very easily.”

An SOA needs a reference architecture and governance processes, he says. An SOA moves away from monolithic applications but leverages existing systems, he says. “The nice thing about SOA is it is not rip-and-replace.”

The Hartford’s SOA features technology such as SOAP, WSDL, XML and a portal.

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