Software // Enterprise Applications
06:00 PM
Andy Dornan
Andy Dornan

SOA's Perfect Mate?

Virtualization 2.0 will go beyond server consolidation, making applications more agile and scalable to fit a service-oriented architecture.


The registry doesn't have to be tied to an application platform, so standalone SOA governance vendors also could simplify Web service virtualization. The main player here is now Software AG, which bought competitor WebMethods last year. Software AG is merging WebMethods' Infravio registry with CentraSite, its own registry co-developed with Fujitsu. Rather than work directly with virtualization management, Software AG aims to expand the registry into a full configuration management database that can track all IT infrastructure, not just Web services, and share information with the main network management frameworks. "That's part of the reason we collaborated with Fujitsu on CentraSite," says Miko Matsumura, deputy CTO at Software AG.

VMware has very successfully promoted the concept of virtual appliances, which in some ways look like the opposite of SOA: Rather than breaking applications into small parts that can be rebuilt into new apps, a virtual appliance bundles an application with an operating system, usually a custom version of Linux, so that minimal configuration is necessary. But the two concepts can coexist happily. For example, in the past year, SOA security gateway vendors Vordel and Layer 7 Technologies have begun to ship their products as virtual appliances, a dramatic change given that security gateways usually are provided as hardware.

SOA security gateways began as XML firewalls, and this is still their most popular function. Like standard network firewalls, they are sold usually as physical boxes, often using dedicated XML acceleration chips. The shift to virtual appliances is driven partly by an aggressive XML strategy from Intel, which started promoting software XML processing as a way to boost demand for its general-purpose CPUs but in December actually entered the enterprise XML market itself, competing directly with some of its appliance-builder customers. However, the shift also is driven by the flexibility inherent in virtualization.

Vordel and Layer 7 both say their virtual appliance editions were aimed initially at testing, yet some customers already use them in production environments. Both vendors expect this trend to grow. Compared with hardware appliances, virtual appliances are easier to install and manage, with server resources dedicated to the VM as required. For example, Layer 7 partner Sun is promoting the concept of on-demand security, in which security services are applied as needed from a virtual appliance.

The theory is that, because Web services are relatively easy to develop, they won't always be built by IT and may run afoul of enterprise security policies. Security gateways provide a way to contain such rogue services without necessarily harming functionality. "You can use the security gateway to buffer a service from its client," says Kevin Schmidt, director for SOA products at Sun. "Virtualizing the gateway becomes an issue of performance and manageability."

The Match Game
All Web services platform vendors have virtualization offerings, though most depend on using the same vendor's OS
BEA JRockit None (Oracle offers Linux) LiquidVM (Oracle offers Xen)
IBM WebSphere AIX, Linux (Novell, Red Hat) System p, System i, Xen
Microsoft .Net Framework Windows Server Windows Virtual Server, Hyper-V
Red Hat JBoss Red Hat Enterprise Linux Xen
Sun Java System Solaris Containers, xVM (Xen)

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