SCA, OGSi and Spring from an IT management perspective

March starts next week and the middleware blogging bees are busy collecting OSGi-nectar, Spring-nectar, SCA-nectar, bringing it all back to the hive and seeing what kind of honey they can make from it.

Like James Governor, I had to train myself to stop associating OSGi with OGSI (which was the framework created by GGF, now OGF, to implement OGSA, and was – not very successfully – replaced with OASIS’s WSRF, want more acronyms?). Having established that OSGi does not relate to OGSI, how does it relate to SCA and Spring? What with the Sprint-OSGi integration and this call to integrate OSGi and SCA (something Paremus says they already do)? The third leg of the triangle (SCA-Spring integration) is included in the base SCA framework. Call this a disclosure or a plug as you prefer, I’ll note that many of my Oracle colleagues on the middleware side of the house are instrumental in these efforts (Hal, Greg, Khanderao, Dave…).

There is also a white paper (getting a little dated but still very much worth reading) that describes the potential integrations in this triangle in very clear and concrete terms (a rare achievement for this kind of exercise). It ends with “simplicity, flexibility, manageability, testability, reusability. A key combination for enterprise developers”. I am happy to grant the “flexibility” (thanks OSGi), “testability” (thanks Spring) and “reusability” (thanks SCA) claims. Not so for simplicity at this point unless you are one of the handful of people involved in all three efforts. As for the “manageability”, let’s call it “manageability potential” and remain friends.

That last part, manageability, is of course what interests me the most in this area. I mentioned this before in the context of SCA alone but the conjunction of SCA with Spring and/or OSGi only increases the potential. What happened with BPEL adoption provides a good illustration of this:

There are lots of JEE management tools and technologies out there, with different levels of impact on application performance (ideally low enough that they are suitable for production systems). The extent to which enterprise Java has been instrumented, probed and analyzed is unprecedented. These tools are often focused on the performance more than the configuration/dependency aspects of the application, partly because that’s easier to measure. And while they are very useful, they struggle with the task of relating what they measure to a business view of the application, especially in the case of composite applications with many shared components. Enter BPEL. Like SCA, BPEL wasn’t designed for manageability. It was meant for increased productivity, portability and flexibility. It was designed to support the SOA vision of service re-use and to allow more tasks to be moved from Java coding to infrastructure configuration. All this it helps with indeed. But at the same time, it also provides very useful metadata for application management. Both in terms of highlighting the application flow (through activities) and in terms of clarifying the dependencies and associated policies (through partner links). This allowed a new breed of application management tools to emerge that hungrily consumer BPEL process definitions and use them to better relate application management to the user-visible aspects of the application.

But the visibility provided by BPEL only goes so far, and soon the application management tools are back in bytecode instrumentation, heap analysis, transaction tracing, etc. Using a mix of standard mechanisms and “top secret”, “patent pending” tricks. In addition to all of their well-known benefits, SCA, OGSi and Spring also help fill that gap. They provide extra application metadata that can be used by application management tools to provide more application context to management tasks. A simple example is that SCA’s service/reference mechanism extends BPEL partner links to components not implemented with BPEL (and provides a more complete policy framework). Of course, all this metadata doesn’t just magically organize itself in an application management framework and there is a lot of work to harness its value (thus the “potential” qualifier I added to “manageability”). But SCA, OSGi and Spring can improve application management in ways similar to what BPEL does.

Here I am again, taking exciting middleware technologies and squeezing them to extract boring management value. But if you can, like me, get excited about these management aspects then you want to follow the efforts around the conjunction of these three technologies. I understand SCA, but I need to spend more time on OGSi and Spring. Maybe this post is my way of motivating myself to do it (I wish my mental processes were instrumented with better metadata so I could answer this question with more certainty – oh please shoot me now).

And while this is all exciting, part of me also wonders whether it’s not too early to risk connecting these specifications too tightly. I have seen too many “standards framework” kind of powerpoint slides that show how a bunch of under-development specifications would precisely work together to meet all the needs of the world. I may have even written one myself. If one thing is certain in that space, it’s that the failure rate is high and over-eager re-use and linkage between specifications kills. That was one of the errors of WSDM. For a contemporary version, look at this “Leveraging CMDBf” plan at Eclipse. I am very supportive of the effort to create an open-source implementation of the CMDBf specification, but mixing a bunch of other unproven and evolving specifications (in addition to CMDBf, I see WS-ResourceCatalog, SML and a “TBD” WS API which I can’t imagine will be anything other than WS-ResourceTransfer) is very risky. And of course IBM’s good old CBE. Was this HTML page auto-generated from an IBM “standards strategy” powerpoint document? But I digress…

Bonus question: what’s the best acronym to refer to OGSi+SCA+Spring. OSS? Taken (twice). SOS? Taken (and too desperate-sounding). SSO? Taken (twice). OS2? Taken. S2O? Available, as far as I can tell, but who wants a name so easily confused with the stinky and acid-rain causing sulfur dioxide (SO2)? Any suggestion? Did I hear J3EE in the back of the room?


Filed under Everything, IT Systems Mgmt, OSGi, SCA, Specs, Spring, Standards

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