Reuse, cross charging and the Cloud

One of the big topics of discussion at the Gartner SOA event in London last week was, unsurprisingly, Cloud Computing – it is everyone’s favourite hot topic this year. One session by Yefim Natis really focused on some of the implications of this – and before he started I made a couple of notes to myself to test as to whether he would answer them.

The first was whether Cloud could solve the cross-charging issue (I will explain this in a moment) and the second was whether Cloud would present a good opportunity for WebSphere Service Registry and Repository. Both of these issues were items that were nagging at me from listening both to clients in the Vendor showcase and also to other Gartner analysts.

The big one was cross-charging – Massimo Pezzini had addressed this as a critical issue to the future of SOA. There was a conflict of interest for those parts of the business who provided services. For the good of the business they were encouraged to make the business services they provided as reusable and shareable as possible. However then as their reuse grew as the uptake of SOA spread in an organization, who then was responsible for the costs associated with not just the initial work to create a reusable service but also then the increase in traffic as it became a fundamental part of multiple composite applications. The service providing department would become a cost center, faced with ever increasing costs and demands for improved SLAs. This could drive future work to be made highly specialized to avoid this issue, impacting the ability of SOA to really be successful.

Now in IBM we have always been keenly aware of the cross-charging issue, as this has always been important to our mainframe/System z customers. Our products such as WebSphere Message Broker, which functions as a highly capable ESB,  have therefore included capabilities to identify and charge users for their use of the environment. But of course in a Cloud Рan elastic shared use environment Рit is explicitly designed for resource allocation and tracking the user and use. Yefim in his session then proposed that deploying these shareable services in the Cloud, with its ability to track and charge for use could lead to these service providers being seen as profit centers instead of cost centers. Now being a profit center when providing internal services is one thing Рmoving money from one pot to another within a business does not a profit make. But combine shareable services in the cloud with a move to more dynamic multi-enterprise B2B, sharing the costs with partners, and some of the investment decisions can make sense, as well as streamlining your business connections and processes. A good thought for the future.

The other question I had was around WebSphere Service Registry and Repository (WSRR). I had talked to quite a number of clients at the show who were deploying, or starting to deploy assets connected to one or other of our ESBs – and they were trying to figure out whether this truly made them more dynamic. Of course it does simplify your connectivity to use an ESB but then are you just swapping one change regimen for another? I got a good response talking to them about using WSRR to hold each service step, and to search for the service location through WSRR rather than defining its location in the ESB flow – this allows for very simple updates and changes to services without any disruption to the running processes and ESB flow.

Now of course when the services are defined as ‘in the cloud’ this is the ultimate requirement for flexibility – they will never have a fixed location or definition¬† anywhere other than the cloud so use of a registry to store and locate these will be essential, as well as the other facets it provdes such as identifying rogue services and enforcing business policies. This says to me that when we are talking to our clients about using the cloud, we need to be sure to discuss the use of ESBs and also WSRR.

Lots to do. Should be interesting!

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