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With SOA and Web 2.0 apps, developers and network pros need to align their work

At Interop 2008, experts warned that networking pros and application developers must work together to ensure that IT can deliver robust SOA and Web 2.0 applications to end users.

LAS VEGAS – At Interop 2008, a panel of experts warned networking pros that infrastructure and application teams need to collaborate early and often to ensure that applications built on SOA and Web 2.0 principles perform as expected.

"A gap exists between the application development side and the infrastructure side," said Jim Metzler, vice president of consultancy Ashton, Metzler and Associates. When he asked attendees whether this gap existed in their organizations, a majority raised their hands.

Metzler moderated a panel discussion entitled "What SOA and Web 2.0 Means to the Network."

Shankar Ramaswamy, vice president of product management at Sonoa Systems, said developers typically adopt his company's technology, but infrastructure professionals end up using it. Sonoa sells service delivery controllers that ensure performance and runtime policy enforcement for SOA and Web 2.0 applications.

"Often, we start talking to customers in the application side of the house," Ramaswamy said. "And we say: 'Hey, we need the infrastructure guys to buy into this. Our customers are starting to recognize that this discussion has to happen outside of our technology. We are pushing it along because we are providing something that makes these people collaborate. We urge you to talk to your application people more.' "

This is especially important given how interdependent SOA and Web 2.0 applications are. These technologies often depend on a handful of other services and applications to complete a transaction. If one of those components slows down or fails, the whole application suffers.

Ramaswamy said networks have evolved from the days when servers connected to other servers or Web browsers connected to servers to complete a one-to-one transaction.

"Now, with SOA and Web 2.0, you're getting applications connecting to other applications via XML services," he said. "No longer does one single application provide value. It's a conglomeration of applications."

Ramaswamy described one banking customer's application that negotiates with five other applications to complete a transaction. It deals with security, customer information, marketing, fulfillment and legal applications to complete a sale.

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"It's a group of six applications working to make that sale," he said. "The application is a jigsaw puzzle, and the network is connecting this. If one application fades, you don't make a sale and you lose money. There is a strong need inside the network for controlling visibility, for performance and scalability."

So network pros are critical to ensuring that these application components work together and deliver good services. Application developers can't plan for this on their own. And network and application people need to have a common language, according to Imad Mouline, CTO of Gomez, a website performance monitoring company.

"It starts with having the same goals," Mouline said. "But there is another constituency, too – the business side. And what makes the world go around? It's the money and the business coming in. All three constituencies need to be aligned."

Mouline said a service-level agreement (SLA) means one thing to the IT side and another thing to the business side. Infrastructure and application teams need to know what a breached SLA means to the business. If availability goes from 99.9% to 99.8%, what does that mean in terms of money lost? How many jobs are lost?

Metzler said that many IT organizations spend a lot of time trying to align themselves with the business but fail to get their own house in order.

Nagesh Anupindi, chief architect and director of architecture at the $10 billion utility Xcel Energy, based in Minneapolis, said his IT organization does a fine job of aligning with the business.

"We have alignments with the business side," he said. "Every vice president of every business unit has a meeting with an IT liaison every week. The interesting topic is keeping our own house clean. That seems to be the toughest."

Anupindi said his organization can't look at applications just from the infrastructure perspective. Looking at applications as just data moving through pipes isn't going to cut it.

Let us know what you think about this story; email: Shamus McGillicuddy, News Editor

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