Wednesday, June 15, 2005

The WSDL is the Offshore Contract

As more and more organizations move large portions of their I.T. department to offshore facilities they are questioning which activities to keep on-shore and which to push offshore.

For those that have chosen a service oriented path, the decision seems to be clear: "The WSDL is the Offshore Contract". In other words, domestic employees will work on business processes, enterprise architecture, orchestrations (agile controllers) and service design (up to the WSDL). And building the service? You got it - offshore.

It's an interesting line to draw, yet perhaps an obvious one. Using the "software contract" as the "legal contract" invites a clean division of labor and facilitates a simple approach for acceptance testing.

Obviously - the WSDL only defines the external interface leaving other aspects of the service (LIKE THE INTERNALS) to be described by other mechanisms. The algorithms and business logic are described with variations of the Use Case (think 'service case'). The relationship between the server and other elements (the hosting container, other services it calls, etc.) will likely be described by the System Definition Model, or some variation.

The science of describing architectures, interfaces and dependencies has significantly increased in recent years and it appears as though we are entering an era where the adoption level will skyrocket. The ability to describe systems in this fashion is what I've been calling 'precision specifications'. By using digital definition languages like SDM and WSDL, we are able to provide a 'software factory' with clear directions for construction.

Using 'services' as the unit of work appears to be a very manageable approach. Companies that are big into test-driven development will likely find test-driven-services a natural extension. Organizations that have adopted the Agile Manifesto may find this world too rigid. However, the Extreme Programmers may like the ability to lump X number of services into an iteration plan. And project managers will be thrilled to see acceptance tests directly linked back to line items on the Gantt chart.

I.T. organizations must increase their capability to describe systems with precision specifications prior to initiating a 'SOA factory'.

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