Saturday, March 15, 2008

Automated Business Services Modeling – Reality or Vision?

A new SOA product VeN4 ServiceWare developed by Venotion Technologies
was presented in the 20th meeting of the SOA Forum of the Israeli Association of Information Processing on March 12th.

Venotion Technologies is an Israeli startup, presenting a unique approach to SOA implementation. The presenter was Ronen Yochpaz the company's CTO.

The product is focused on the Finance sector especially the Banking and Insurance industry.

Many Core Banking application systems and Insurance applications are legacy systems developed over more than 20-30 years ago on IBM Mainframes and z/OS operating system. Venotion's product aimed at using existing assets as part of a SOA implementation. Currently the product is in Beta. General Availability is expected on April 2008.


Basic Concepts and product highlights

  • The product composes automatically the Business Model by Reverse Business Engineering of existing User Interface and IT assets.
  • Execution is in the Testing environment and not in the Production environment in order to prevent performance degradation.
  • The entry point is the User Interface (UI), so B2B and Service to Service connections which were not initiated via User Interface are excluded. The assumption is that the majority of SOA related resources are invoked via User Interface.
  • Batch modeling is based upon Schedulers such as BMC's Control-M using the Scheduler control cards instead of the User Interface.
  • A UDDI based Registry is automatically populated by the product using the artifacts of the Business Model which were created by the first step of the product execution.
  • UDDI entries populated by the product are augmented by Business context using Business Taxonomy.
  • Ability to catalog services in the UDDI repository based on business context.
  • IT Application Decomposition is based upon recording of the path of each service starting from the user click via User Interface.The recording is based on tracing tools of each technological environment containing part of the Service implementation.
  • A Graphical tool enables Business Model presentation.
  • Another tool is a Semantic Search tool (search by Context and not by Keyword).

Role in SOA initiatives and Deployment

The role of the tool is for assessing SOA readiness for domains targeted for transformation to SOA (the tool is positioned by the company as a "Jump start to SOA" i.e. a tool which accelerates the first steps in SOA adoption).

The automatic Business Model Composition cycle time is few hours.

The short time for building Business Model Composition enables many iterations of that process.

The product can also be used for justification of a SOA initiative because it is possible to show results and Return On Investment (ROI) in relatively short time.

Competitive Positioning

  • Venotion positions its product as the only tool except IBM's tools for modeling existing and Legacy assets to Services. According to the company, IBM's tools (SOMA, CBM) are not fully automated and therefore implementing them may consume more time and resources (IBM had presented SOMA in a meeting of the SOA Forum of the Israeli Association of Information Processing two years ago as an internal tool implemented only by IBM's experts).
  • No information about other candidates is disclosed currently by the company.
The partnership is based upon population of the UDDI Registry of the partner by
VeN4 ServiceWare. Populating the registry in short time could justify buying the registry.

Ronen said that business people told Venotion people that the model helps them to know which components are used by their application, so they can quantify the number and percentage of the elements used by them. They said that quantifying the percentage of elements can help them in estimating the accounting model. For example a Business unit paying half of the IT budget but using only 10% of the IT artifacts would ask for lower charge.

My First Take
My first take is based upon my limited knowledge of the product (The presentation and information in the company's Web site), so it could be wrong.
  • Unique innovative approach

The unique innovative approach is promising especially for enterprises thinking of Legacy Modernization without Mainframe replacement.

Product strengths include:

1. Automation which enables short time for producing a model

2. Drilling down from services to assets composing services

3. Automatically adding Business Context and Taxonomy to UDDI registry.

Lack of Business Context is a well known limitation of UDDI standard.

  • Too good is not good enough
This product as well as any other product is not a Panacea.Some organizations could see it as a
Panacea.
The short time for creating the model could be misleading. The product may be valuable in
the long journey to SOA, but thinking of it as a replacement of Business Modeling tools
and Governance tools could be a very costly mistake.

It is compelling to think that VeN4 ServiceWare or any other tool could replace the
process of building the Service Model. No tool can do the job instead of Business and IT
professionals collaboration. Sure if wisely used, tools like VeN4 ServiceWare could
aid the professional people collaboration process by supplying valuable information.
Do not assume that the tool can address lack of organizational maturity for SOA.
  • Does the product produce a Business Services model or Web Services model?

For answering this crucial question I need to investigate the product more deeply. However, using a UDDI based registries and the automatic process makes me suspicious: Is the model built of Business Services or technical Web Services? Is the tool capable of resolving redundancies such as multiple Web Services with overlapping or identical functionality? Is the granularity of Services in the created model coarse enough?


  • Creation of Dynamic Assets Repository

VeN4 ServiceWare builds an Assets Repository. Due to the ease of building

it could be more dynamic and flexible than the traditional Metadata Repositories

such as ASG's Rochade or Ca's Repository products.

I am not sure if it is more flexible than the new SOA related Metadata Repositories e.g.

BEA's Flashline or LogicLibrary's Logidex.

It should be remembered that the traditional Metadata Repositories manage

Production Metadata and are capable of supporting wider range of technological

environments.


  • Inability to discover services which were not initiated via UI

Currently the product addresses only UI online applications.

Mapping non-UI initiated services or UI initiated services outside the enterprise and the enterprise's Web site (e.g. UI initiated Service in a partner enterprise which invokes services within the enterprise) could be important.

It is especially important to organizations partially transitioned to SOA paradigm, enabling consumption of services outside the enterprise domain and consuming services beyond the enterprise boundaries.

  • Additional environments should be supported

Although VeN4 ServiceWare supports three frequently used environments (CICS, J2E and .Net) Enterprises are usually more heterogeneous.

The result is exclusion of these applications and environment from the model, so no Full Business Services Model could be derived by this tool.

Legacy Visual Basic up to version 6 including version 6 is an example of a frequently used environment which is not supported by the tool.

Mainframe examples of non supported environments are IMS/DC OLTP monitor and Adabas/Natural.

It should be remembered that the product is in Beta of its first release, therefore support for too many technological environments is not a good practice and is not expected, however I think that support of additional environments will be a required enhancement in next releases.



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