OAGi – Defining a Common Business Language for SOA
September 08, 2008
If you call someone on the telephone today, you will almost always connect to the person you are trying to reach. The technology is so trustworthy that you no longer question whether or not you will be able to reach people on the other side of the world. However, if a person you call doesn’t speak the same language, communicating can still be a problem despite the technical advancement.
This is essentially what is happening in the IT world now: vendors have invested in tooling to connect software systems, components and services with each other. Over the last few years, the development focus within SOA has been to find a standard way of connecting software systems and “enveloping” information. These are some of the largest pain points for Enterprise Application Integration (EAI).
In order for exchanged information to be commonly understood, a shared business language and common concepts are necessary, and the software industry needs to come to grips with this fact. There have been improvements over the last few years, for example, in the field of Master Data Management (MDM). Unfortunately, it is often only tooling that is offered and not the business functionality to, for instance, manage the “lifecycle” of data. There is also a danger that companies will enforce their own MDM-standard definitions, which can mean a never-ending process and effort for expensive governance teams.
Not defining a standard for information exchange leads to time-consuming mapping (translation) to define the languages spoken between different systems. This is a crucial point where many IT projects fail, in regards to time and budget. The problem can be compared to the daily functioning of the European Parliament. Here each member speaks in his or her own language. Translators must relate each word in “real time” into the language of every other member. Result: inefficiency and sky-high costs (paid for by the European citizens).
The Open Applications Group (OAGi) is developing a standard for how business documents and concepts should be defined to solve this problem. The interesting thing here is that not just IT companies that are participating, but also trend-setting companies from various industries. Each has the same goal: to define the common business language for information exchange.
If you think back, EDI comes quickly to mind, especially the circumstances under which it failed to gain pervasive use. In contrast, there are many different reasons why OAGi has a real chance to succeed. First, it is both IT and non-IT industries’ perception that a common language is of utmost importance and would bring many advantages. Secondly, the technology has come a long way (think XML) and the communications infrastructure has become a commodity through the Internet. OAGi should not be seen as a B2B application, but as a solution to help define the information exchange inside company walls.
SOA needs a shared business language and MDM - that much is certain. However, SOA projects have difficulty adding value when only tooling and expensive governance teams are involved. Often this approach means time consuming discussions about how an address field must look. Organizations such as OAGi, which are doing the hard work of standardizing business information, offer a much needed solution to this problem. They are speeding the process of message definition, resulting in more efficiency and increasing the chance for “out-of-the-box” interoperability with other software systems. This will hasten the discovery of a shared language for SOA.
Imagine you could pick up your phone and call anywhere in the world and communicate seamlessly without any language barriers. Organizations like OAGI are going to help us create a common language for business applications, improving customers’ ability to cost-effectively assemble the right software for their business.
Posted by Massimo Capoccia, Director Product Management, Technology