SOAs, Quality Tools in Spotlight

Opinion: Open source thrives, but details challenge global projects.

As 2005 began, questions of application development and software platform choice were moving from the enterprise backroom onto a much larger stage. Rapidly developing economies had already led to the coinage in 2003 of "BRIC" (Brazil, Russia, India and China) as shorthand for the places where capital is looking for resources. Its no coincidence that these are also countries where software skills, intellectual property issues, and an open-source cornucopia of tools and middleware are combining to challenge IT industry leaders dominance.

In an eWEEK Developer Solutions report in February, I observed that Java was a technology that spoke to the growing international preference for avoiding close ties to proprietary platforms. Again, its no coincidence that at the end of November, Java projects edged past C++ projects in the SourceForge repository of open-source efforts. Especially important is the self-reinforcing trend of open-source tools being built in Java and being used to build open-source middleware in Java.

/zimages/2/28571.gifSOA competition heats up. Click here to read more.

That positive-feedback connection was strengthened as we neared years end by Suns release of its Java Studio Enterprise 8 as a free download, turning what had been a $1,895 product—and an eWEEK Excellence Award winner earlier this year—into a party favor for programmers. You know the phrase thats coming next: Its no coincidence that one of the distinctive features of Java Studio Enterprise is its integrated suite of real-time collaboration aids, suitable for use among far-flung project teams.

Working in multiple countries brings a need to understand and respect multiple sets of rules concerning privacy, accessibility, copyright, competition and other domains of both custom and law. Crucial questions of ownership (does your overseas contractor retain valuable rights?) require upfront consideration. If you think its a game of who has the deepest pockets to sue or be sued by someone in the United States, you dont even want to think about going to court in another country.

The "open source" label, I hasten to add, is no magic spell against the demons of embarrassing and costly infringement on ownership rights. As of this writing, 58 different licenses are considered "open source" by the Open Source Initiative.

Suns Common Development and Distribution License joined the OSI list in January, to general approval, but Intel arguably made developers even happier by withdrawing its Intel Open Source License from use in March—advising developers that the BSD (Berkeley Software Distribution) license appeared to meet the needs of the developers known to be invoking Intels incantation. The fewer distinct open-source licenses there are, I believe we can all agree, the better.

One may hope that a year from now, the number of extant OSI licenses may have actually declined. In the meantime, project higher-ups should verify the terms of applicable licenses during pre-release reviews, lest they suffer the embarrassing fate of Sony BMG—whose ill-starred defense of its music copyrights may have infringed on the terms of license of open-source components of Sonys unwholesome content-control recipe .

Testing tools are part of the solution. Their scope is expanding beyond the domain of mere code correctness to include the automatic enforcement of any number of other coding standards and practices. They cant do the job, though, merely by virtue of being bought and installed. The discipline of using those tools, and the documentation of due diligence in this and all other phases of software design and development, must move to higher positions on the development agenda, as I discussed with a group of toolmakers and enterprise development leaders in another Developer Solutions report earlier this month.

Another discussion that I convened this year involved the status and prospects of SOA (service-oriented architecture) technology and practice. "This year will be a bigger leap than last year" for SOA, said Ben Moreland of Hartford Financial Services Group, in Hartford, Conn. He said the leap will be propelled by greater attention to management platforms and UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration) registries, rather than what he called "Web services in small pockets, but not really SOA."

Morelands point in that late-March conversation was amply proved by the SOA success of NASAs Earth Science Data and Information System Project efforts, described in the Dec. 12 eWEEK in a Road Map feature story. Systinets Systinet Registry gave NASA precisely the UDDI Version 3 ingredients of discoverability and service integration that Moreland had hoped to see coming into the enterprise mix.

I should balance that enthusiasm against the concerns of the reader who asked me this month if SOA entails too much exposure to distant events. I have to agree that its crucial to consider the risks and the benefits of cosmopolitan coding—thats among development managers key challenges next year.

Technology Editor Peter Coffee can be reached at

/zimages/2/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, reviews and analysis in Web services.