Infor Global Solutions has addressed the tricky problem of SOA-enabling its multiplatform applications by opting for a platform-independent event-based model to help organisations take advantage of SOA without having to upgrade legacy software.
"You can build components without rewriting the whole system," said CTO Bruce Gordon.
The Open SOA strategy is based on the event-based model outlined by OAG and the OAGIS 9 business object document specification. It is based on the concept of event-based architecture which embeds much of the capability within the applications and was dictated by Infor's mixed bag of applications, which run on the Java, .NET and iSeries platforms.
The need to enable interoperable applications, even where the applications run on different platforms, and software components that could be deployed or upgraded with little or no disruption to current enterprise systems was another driver.
The promise of Open SOA is that organisations can move to SOA without having to have to change their existing systems and can create their own platform-independent ecosystem based on software components from Infor or third-party vendors.
The event approach differs from the process-based service paradigm adopted by vendors like SAP AG and Oracle Corp (although in reality they offer a hybrid process and event-based architecture). In its broadest terms, the process-based model is based on a request and respond protocol, whereas the event-based architecture uses the publish and subscribe mode. And where process-based SOA relies on loosely coupled services, managed by a platform like SAP's NetWeaver, event-based SOA decouples the components in the system. "We were looking for a different model," said Gordon, "where you can have a different database, where you can set up a different business services, run different database instances and share in a publish and subscribe [manner.]. The result is a SOA implementation based on a technology layer that supports multiple platforms and individual applications that can continue to run as they do today which makes changes transparent to the end user.
Customers can choose Infor's enterprise service bus - which currently is the Sonic ESB out of Progress -- or one from an alternative provider. Similarly, organisations are at liberty to chose something like IBM's WebSphere or SAP's NetWeaver middleware, in which case they will only have to map their data model once, which should simplify deployment.
Gordon said the company has built the underlying architecture, but it will be 2010 before most of the applications will be service enabled. The development teams for each of the Infor applications are working to split existing processes into sub-processes. The applications will use the OAGIS 9 business object specification, enabling them to publish and subscribe using standard packets. He said Infor choose the OAG event based approach over the more commonly adopted process-based model because it meant less cost and disruption to customers and it left them free to chose the platform infrastructure of their choice.
As well as trying to reduce the need for legacy system change, Infor is also trying to shield organisations from the cost so they plan to embed the cost of most of the SOA components into the standard application license fee and support them through standard maintenance contracts. However, where organisations want their Infor applications to interoperate with third party applications, a license fee will be payable. The price point has not been specified but Gordon said it would be modest.