Where SOA and cloud computing intersect: the loosely coupled business

Panel discusses cloud and SOA convergence; how a service company acquired 100% of its IT assets from the cloud
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer on

One of the things we talk about here is how service orientation is enabling the rise of the "loosely coupled" business -- an organization that acts as a broker of services, focusing on its core business and serving its markets while relying on services brought in through third parties (or internally). SOA and cloud computing are bringing this about, and I've encountered an example of this new loosely coupled business model in action.

Mike Kavis, CTO of M-Dot Network, joined an ebizQ panel with Dave Linthicum and AmberPoint's Ed Horst  that explored issues and opportunities at the growing intersection of cloud and SOA.

By applying service-oriented thinking, companies -- particularly startups with few resources -- can run their businesses entirely from the cloud. Mike Tavis, for one, is living proof that it can, and is, being done. As Mike explained it, his company, M-Dot, a digital coupon processing service, was able to assemble all the IT power it needed from the cloud:

"We just started last November [2008], so we have this great opportunity to start with a blank sheet of paper. From the perspective of SOA, I don't have to deal with the legacy, the politics, all the fun stuff that's a challenge to SOA. And from the perspective of the cloud, I get to build the cloud from the start, without having to worry about trying to move legacy to the cloud."

M-Dot is aiming for an international reach - however, this requires capacity at strategic points throughout the globe. "Since were a startup, I don't want to have to raise millions of dollars to build data centers all over the world," Kavis explained. "I just leveraged the cloud."

In the process, M-Dot can concentrate on its core business, rather than running IT. "We're going to focus on the automation of the digital coupon redemption service, which is a very small piece. We're going to outsource and partner for everything else. SOA and cloud computing are going to change IT's role."

M-Dot has deployed two tiers of cloud computing, Kavis said. For many services, the company is tapping into Amazon Web Services. For handling sensitive data, the company manages its own internal cloud managed on a 3terra network. If the Amazon-based infrastructure were to go down, M Dot can switch operations to the private cloud, he explained.

"We're delivering on a hybrid cloud model," he said. "In the public cloud we're using Amazon, and do most of our processing there." To address issues such as regulatory and privacy mandates - as well as rules within individual countries - data is "locked down in a private cloud."

Service oriented architecture plays an important role in cloud as well, Mike said. "It's so important to use a service oriented architecture to be able to deploy across the world, and meet the various requirements of different customers.... If you start hard-wiring your architecture to the cloud, you're not going to be able to do some of things and meet some of the requirements. The service oriented architecture makes it more manageable."

How closely are service oriented architecture and cloud intertwined?  They are likely close to being one in the same.  "If you look at the essence of what cloud computing is... it's a service oriented architecture that we build on the inside and the outside," according to Dave Linthicum, who is also author of Cloud Computing and SOA Convergence in Your Enterprise: A Step-by-Step Guide. "What's occurring now is that service oriented architecture, as an architectural pattern and as a discipline, is extending into the world of cloud computing."

Ultimately, Dave said, "what is cloud computing and what is service oriented architecture are converging. And they're using many of the same technologies and same patterns."

For example, he explained, "cloud computing still needs a strong governance solution.... We need to manage services. We need to build services. We need to govern services. We need to secure services. And we need to figure out how all these services are going to work together. to create applications and create an agile architecture within the problem domain within our enterprise."

One of the aspects of both service oriented architecture and cloud architecture that people seem to overlook is the fact that companies -- and even individuals -- will be both producers and consumers of enterprise services. The line between service developers and end-users will be very blurry indeed.

I was glad to see AmberPoint's Ed Horst bring that point up in the session. "We need to try to calibrate as to whether enterprises are cloud consumer, in which they're calling on services, or they themselves are cloud providers in a cloud fashion to business partners and customers and so on," Ed explains. "The norm is that it may be a mixture of the two -- the corporation is behaving as both a provider to consumers, as well as consuming services being provided to them."

That means there are  number of issues that need to be addressed from the two perspectives, Ed continues. "How am I being served by service providers? Are they living up to performance and security issues." In addition, there are issues with dealing with failure, "How do I detect where breakages have occurred? And how do I actively and proactively resolve that?"

The other side of the coin is the issues that need to be addressed as a cloud service provider, he adds. "How am I dealing with identity issues and regulatory requirements, that deal with industry types and so on?"

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