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SOA Management Rivals Snap Up Data Repository Software

BEA Systems and webMethods hope recent acquisitions will help push SOA into wide-scale adoption.
Building anything requires understanding the materials you have at hand. Two vendors that provide software for managing service-oriented architectures want to make that very thing possible, by providing metadata repositories for tracking SOA environments. In so doing, they hope to overcome a major barrier to SOA's wide-scale adoption.

Rivals BEA Systems and webMethods last week announced acquisitions of metadata repository applications that store information about software assets, software interdependencies, and governance policies. BEA bought Flashline and its metadata repository, while webMethods acquired nearly all the assets of Cerebra, including its metadata repository technology. Terms of the deals weren't disclosed.

A key benefit of SOAs is that they let developers reuse software components instead of forever building new applications from scratch. But that requires knowing what components are available. A lack of tools that automate the discovery and management of software components has hindered the whole concept of software reuse, says Shawn Willett, an analyst with Current Analysis.

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Flashline, renamed BEA AquaLogic Enterprise Repository, becomes part of BEA's line of products for managing SOA infrastructure in heterogeneous IT environments. Cerebra's technology will serve as webMethods' federated metadata repository and is being embedded into a new release of webMethods Fabric, a business integration and process optimization software suite, due later this year.

Taming Complexity

Such repositories are expected to play a critical role within SOA systems as businesses expand beyond limited pilot projects to large networks of Web services with hundreds or even thousands of applications, data sources, business rules, and process models. "The complexity will bloom," says webMethods CTO Marc Breissinger, arguing that IT managers will need a comprehensive view of all those IT assets and their relationships to effectively manage SOA networks.

It's All In The Metadata
Push is on to make SOA elements trackable

BEA Systems acquired Flashline and its metadata repository;Flashline repository will become AquaLogic Enterprise Repository

webMethods acquired assets of Cerebra, including its metadata repository; plans to embed metadata repository into future release of webMethods Fabric

IBM is developing its own product, WebSphere Service Registry and Repository

SOA managers assemble composite applications using application components, legacy applications, data sources, and business rules. That requires understanding the dependencies among all those elements and the policies that govern their use. IT managers, for example, need to know which applications and data sources can work together, who has permission to access them, and what will happen when application configurations change. "It's a lot more than simple WSDL," says Charles Stack, Flashline's founder and CEO, referring to the Web Services Definition Language that's used to describe Web services.

Other software vendors have similar metadata registry and repository development efforts under way. In March, IBM announced a set of SOA governance tools and services that will include WebSphere Service Registry and Repository, due later this year.

BEA's repository also will track the use of Web services applications and their performance, says Paul Patrick, VP and chief architect of the AquaLogic software. The product complement BEA AquaLogic Service Registry, which is based on technology BEA resells from Systinet.

WebMethods' repository will offer what Breissinger calls "semantic reasoning" capabilities that automatically identify and suggest software assets that can be used to assemble composite applications.

Businesses are beginning to move beyond SOA pilot projects to wider deployments across multiple business functions, such as human resource management and finance, and even across companies, Gartner analyst Jess Thompson says. As SOA deployments become more complex later this year and into 2007, vendors hope they'll be ready to meet IT's needs.