In the last 18 months, the number of tools and applications in the marketplace that support and aid organizations in their service-oriented architecture (SOA) governance pursuits has increased tremendously. These best in class (dashboard-centric) products are now bundling SOA transactional monitoring functionality with more governance-focused components in a unified, unprecedented manner. The ability to merge SOA performance (transactional) data from a common interface and graphical framework with more static repository-oriented metadata (which deals with change management, versioning, classification and typing, service contracts and interface rules) helps make SOA less threatening and appear more governable to IT directors. SOA is maturing and creating a demand for new and improved means and methods that will assist in the governing of distributed services. Due to the distributed nature of SOA, the complexity of IT architectures has not lessened. While the enterprise service paradigm may result in fewer moving parts, the existing pieces serve more disparate types of consumers and customers than any legacy application or suite of applications could ever aspire to. In addition, we have now reached a critical juncture in SOA where governance is extending out of IT and merging with business considerations. SOA architects and managers need to understand not only how well their services integrate into in the larger context of enterprise technology architecture, but how well those services perform in supporting their constituent business processes.1

SOA vendors now offer highly customizable dashboard solutions that provide companies with a keen insight into their distributed services, from both IT and business-centric points of view. These consoles often integrate metadata repository features with real-time monitoring capabilities. In order to realize a more perfect SOA governance practice and show empirical ROI on governance policy, organizations that have adopted SOA need to understand exactly how well their services support constituent business processes. This means that the correct metrics and measurements associated with service contracts must be captured and presented in a way that is cleanly understood. While standard key performance indicators (KPIs) that assist in measuring a service’s effectiveness will vary from vendor to vendor, the industry as a whole seems to be reaching a consensus on which KPIs best convey service-to-business alignment and equilibrium. In this way, the SOA industry is quickly bootstrapping itself in order to ensure that transparency into their clients’ service architectures - from a consolidated vantage point - remains a less elusive task. Through a unification of transaction monitoring and metadata management, quantum leaps in SOA governance have become a welcome reality. Using the themes of metadata and transaction monitoring, let’s look at some of the characteristics and functionality of SOA governance dashboards.

The SOA architect should have the capability to create and associate a tremendous amount of metadata to each service. Metadata is always the primary means of support in the governance of a service and its related artifacts. Some important categories of metadata are:

  • Service uptime and service throughput,
  • Interface definitions, including authentication and valid invocation parameters,
  • Version control information,
  • Exception handling and fault recovery mechanisms,
  • Ownership and accountability hierarchies,
  • Consuming business processes mapping,
  • Complete representation of semantic and lexical references that are of interest to the service,
  • Environment and platform logistics and
  • Graphical portrayal of relationships and linkages to other distributed messaging architectures.

SOA governance dashboards offer a common platform where real-time performance monitoring and IT-centered performance metrics can be collected, aggregated and presented in legible and customizable fashion. SOA must be able to scrutinize how a business process is behaving and being supported by a service across various deployments, technology platforms and global infrastructures, serving up information on:

  • Service uptime and service throughput,
  • Security breaches including the detection of rogue services,
  • Real-time service policy management and interface resolution and
  • Exception handling (based on predefined routines, severity thresholds and exception paths).

It is important not to forget how many dimensions there are to SOA governance. It is an around-the-clock task of monitoring, measuring, improving and managing change - from both a bottom-up paradigm (from transaction to policy) and vice versa, where policy drives service contracts, interfaces, monitoring techniques and promulgates a culture of SOA governance. Establishing standards of control requires a skillful merging of both IT and business perspectives. This is necessary if SOA quality can ever hope to conform to a governance agenda and keep growing and scaling to support the business strategically to truly deliver promised ROI. Getting a solid ROI for your SOA governance efforts will best be achieved through the use of a dashboard type of application, which will be able to monitor, police and report on the flow of service-based transactions throughout the enterprise (across multiple infrastructures), managing the relationships between services and subscribers and cataloging a wide-berth of SOA metadata throughout the lifecycle of all services.
Reference:

  1. “SOA Governance - Delving Into Details,”Dashboard Insight,June 2008.

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