SOA Ontology: What It Can Do for You and the Cloud

Loraine Lawson

IT Business Edge's Loraine Lawson recently spoke with Heather Kreger and Dr. Chris Harding about how The Open Group's new SOA Ontology Technical Standard ties in with cloud computing and how it will help IT groups deploying SOA. Kreger co-chaired The Open Group's SOA Work Group and is IBM's lead architect for Smarter Planet, Policy, and SOA Standards in the IBM Software Group. Harding is The Open Group's SOA Working Group forum director, the primary author of "The SOA Sourcebook," and holds a Ph.D. in mathematical logic.


"I think ... as the use of cloud gets more and more widespread, we're going to actually see people trying to make service orientation work in the cloud context and we will see what the relationship ought to be becoming much, much clearer."

Dr. Chris Harding
Forum Director
The Open Group

Lawson: The SOA ontology seems pretty technical, but the press release says it's designed to help with business and IT alignment. I don't really understand how. Can you speak to that?

Harding: This is an objective that we set a long time ago when we first started the project, about five years now was when we first formed the SOA work group. One of the things we were not keen about was alignment between business and IT and that was, therefore, one of the objectives when we started the ontology project.


We never intended that people would take the ontology into business meetings as it were and when the CIO or CEO wanted to know what they were doing, they would bring out their OWL and they would point to the OWL definitions. That was never the intention.


The intention was to ensure that there was a clarity of thought in approaching and describing SOA concepts. So the value of the ontology to the people that were using it in this kind of conversation was that they would have within their own minds a clear understanding of what the concepts were and would therefore be able to explain them more clearly. If you're talking about service-oriented architecture, if you're talking about service, service is, in fact, originally a business concept. It's been a concept of the business world and business operation for a long, long time now, but it's a business concept that's being taken up by the technologists who have used it in this concept of the software service and service-oriented architecture.


In doing so, they've been developing, if you like, specialized meanings for some of the terms, which perhaps may be beginning to diverge from what a business person would understand by service, or provider, or consumer, or contractor or what have you.


So that was the convergence that we were trying to bring in: the bridge between what business people were understanding via service and what technical people were understanding via service, and that they should be not diverging, but understanding, broadly the same thing.


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