Panelists debate SOAs

SOAs (service-oriented architectures) were pitted against legacy mainframes in a debate at TechEd in Dallas on Tuesday featuring Microsoft Corp. officials responding to audience queries.

Panelists participating in a session on enterprise architectures also fielded questions pertaining to whether SOAs, in which applications are treated as easily integrated components, are synonymous with Web services.

One audience member questioned how services billing would be done in an SOA.

"Thirty years ago on the mainframe, on that horrible place called the mainframe, I knew every line I wrote, how long it would run, and exactly how to bill it to customers," the TechEd attendee said.

He questioned how, in three years, he could cobble together SLAs (service-level agreements) with an agreement that, for example, could require 20 Web services calls for one unit of work -- some calls within the company and some outside of it.

"For the ones outside, how are they going to bill me, where's the infrastructure to measure in commerce, all message traffic, this service delivery, and how am I going to be able to measure all that?" the attendee asked.

Scott Woodgate, technical product manager for Microsoft BizTalk Server, said work is being done in this area in standards bodies, such as with the Business Process Execution Language (BPEL), which is under the jurisdiction of OASIS. But this issue will not be resolved in three years, he said.

Woodgate added that mainframes represent a different paradigm from a different time. "The mainframe was an antiquated environment defined when computing was very expensive" and everything done had to be accounted for, Woodgate said.

"To say we need something like the mainframe charging model is not exactly fair," said Woodgate.

Gurpreet Pall, Microsoft senior director for the Windows engineering solutions and services group, also said mainframes were from a different time. "Most processes were not automated" 30 years ago, he said.

"A lot of things like b-to-b and b-to-c were absolutely not possible," Pall said.

Maarten Mullender, Microsoft solutions architect for the .Net Platform Strategy group, said telecommunications companies and cell phone vendors would devise business models for billing services for SOAs.

Another attendee said he wanted to dispel the myth that SOAs equal Web services. "SOA is not equivalent to Web services. It is an underlying implementation of how we achieve the SOA, but we may achieve it through other means," the attendee said.

Mullender concurred, to a degree. Architectures that entail going out onto the Internet probably will need Web services. "If you don't, then you don't care," he said.

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