Service Component Architectures – a fad or here to stay?

Several large influential IT technology companies, ( Oracle and Redhat are the ones I know ) are trying to shape the future of Enterprise Application Development – by trending towards Service Component Architectures. The SCA concept is that of defining services which can consume and be consumed by other services. All the current standardization efforts and new shiny products coming out cannot quite convince me yet to drop how i define and design applications today and start building with SCA.

A JEE application today is some code which is structured as a set of interconnected services, which use datasources and adapters ( for other services ) and can expose it’s own domain model as a service to other calling it. The “application” defines the boundaries of the service, and becomes a deployable unit for some runtime container. This is “service orientation”. The internal services of an application can be re-used between applications if these are packaged separately in re-usable libraries. The application defines a “composite” service which is more likely at a “business” level of granularity – whereas the internal services are lower level.

Now the problem with SCA. If you start defining everything as a service, then the boundaries between applications disappear. Not only that, but it is difficult to separate out the “low level” (internal) services from higher level business services. After X years of developing services – i can imaging that there will be an incredible spaghetti of service dependencies. Maintenance will be every bit as difficult as the classic JEE application – but the classic application will have more flexibility in migrating it’s infrastructure – like moving it into the cloud.

Don’t get me wrong. I do think there is a business case for SCA products. When a company is relying to a large degree on off the shelf cloud services, then it has no option but to integrate “around” these applications to get them to work together. For that, you need process capabilities and the classic “service bus” data movers and transformers etc. So SCA gets to be the integration playground where things get done where no-one else wants to do or can do. The SCA gives you this entire capability as a single application ( which needs deployment / hosting / support ) – which is probably the end goal vision of the tech giants promoting this.

SCA could also be effective as a virtualization layer between a Web/Portal domain and your business application domain.


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