Tuesday, March 30, 2010

"Web services != SOA" @ NZOUG's smelliest conference yet

Before your intrigue into the title of this post gets the better of you, I am pleased to announce that we have a guest blogger, Chris Muir, writing for The Red Room.

Chris is an Oracle ACE Director. To become an Oracle ACE, Chris has qualified according the following criteria:
  • Track record of major contributions to the community, technical and/or community-oriented

  • Good communication skills

  • Ability to commit to participation in an honorary (non compensated) capacity
To all these points, Chris' Blog - One Size Doesn't fit all , is one of the most widely-read blogs on JDeveloper and ADF in the international Oracle Technology Network Community and he is one of the foremost Oracle bloggers in Australia. In fact in 2009 he was voted ACE Director of the Year . He is also a prolific contributor to the AUSOUG community.

Chris recently presented to a series of User Group Meetings in New Zealand, Canberra and South Australia and kindly agreed to summarise his presentations in the following guest Blog for The Red Room.

"Web services != SOA" @ NZOUG's smelliest conference yet

Oracle's RedRoom invited me to write a guest post on their blog about my recent travels and presentations. As an Oracle ACE Director I have the chance to attend and present at conferences and events around the world. I specialize in the Fusion Middleware space, with a strong interest and background in the database.

NZOUG's 2010 conference
This March I was privileged to attend and present on Web Services to the New Zealand's Oracle User Group near-yearly conference, as well as present to both the ACTOUG and AUSOUG-SA members on the way home to Perth.

How would I sum up the NZOUG conference?:


Not the usual assessment of an Oracle User Group conference, but this conference on Lake Rotorua, a still active caldera, did take some getting used to thanks to the rotten eggs smell that hands over the small surrounding town.

Yet, this year's NZOUG conference, besides its smell, again proved the NZ event is one well worth attending, for the Oracle content and the friendly delegates and committee members. Of note to anyone interested in presenting or sponsoring the NZOUG event, NZ equalled the number of delegates and sponsors at the reportedly much larger 2009 Australian Oracle User Group conference in Melbourne. Being an ex-AUSOUG committee member I'm well impressed that a country with a fifth of the Australian population punched so much above its weight.

Web service extravaganza
SOAP web services and its newer complimentary cousin REST based web services have a number of significant advantages that organisations and their systems can make use of:
  • The ability to share data in a near real time fashion, with the resulting business benefits of information "now", not tomorrow, next week, or next year

  • To specify clear interfaces and data payloads between systems that can be validated at both design and runtime, to avoid sending or receiving invalid, unstructured data messes

  • Utilise existing, prevalent Internet infrastructure, requiring no dedicated peer-to-peer network infrastructure, avoiding costly network setups

  • Ignoring the other system's underlying technology implementation, who cares if one system is an Oracle system, the other .Net, Java, SAP or similar
Yet given these exciting benefits, the challenge of learning and applying web services can be a hard one for organisations and developers not familiar with its implementation.
At the NZOUG conference, and ACTOUG and AUSOUG-SA events, in order to address this challenge, I had the chance to give delegates a web service introduction, with two entirely different approaches.

The first presentation "Back to Basics: Simple database web services without the SOA headache", a somewhat glib title was designed to draw the predominately SQL and PLSQL proficient delegates at the conference to learn about web services. It's always easier to learn something if you already have skills required to solve a problem. The presentation harnessed the attendees' skills and showed them through the Oracle database how they consume and publish their own web services using the Oracle database's own features.

My second presentation, "JDeveloper 11g Web Services – as easy as 1-2-3" took the more traditional approach to web service development, introducing the contemporary JEE solution using Oracle's own JDeveloper IDE. For some JDeveloper has been a dirty word in the Oracle development circles, with extremely complicated development resulting in steep learning curve and failed system development. But since 10.1.3, and especially the 11g version, JDeveloper like much of the Java arena has tidied up its act and made contemporary Java development easier, a product Oracle is very excited about. My second presentation looked at the simple acts of creating a web service in the IDE through the generation of an XML Schema using a diagrammer, a web service WSDL also using a diagrammer, then finally the Java code via wizards & editors. The funny thing about the presentation is it takes me more time to explain than it actually does to implement the web service – surely a statement that should sell web services itself.

But does SOA have a place?
The nice thing about both these presentations is once delegates have obtained a knowledge of SOAP- based web services, be it through the database's features or JDeveloper, it then allows us to use that new found knowledge as a stepping stone to learn and understand SOA's approach to the broader issues of system integration and a service-based focus. Without the knowledge around the pros and cons of web service development, the leap to appreciating the challenges SOA attempts to address is a hard one. Instead if we provide a learning path between their traditional skills and the new technology, this will address a large segment of people who are essential in getting on board the SOA approach.

The question, will SOA work for you and your organisation is really up to you to decide. Yet, I think it a valid approach to learn, experiment and try out web services first, in order to see if SOA maybe a larger solution that may work for you. And even if it doesn't, web services alone may provide value to your organisation beyond your current implementations.

With thanks to Oracle's Red Room to inviting me to post this guest post, and also with thanks to the NZOUG, ACTOUG and AUSOUG-SA committees for inviting me to present, and the members for attending.

Chris is an Oracle Consultant and Technical Lead and Trainer based in Perth with SAGE Computing Services .

You can follow Chris on Twitter here: http://twitter.com/chriscmuir

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