Web services repositories are almost always mentioned in conjunction with SOA governance as its key enabler and there is a widespread notion that a repository is a key component of an SOA.

To me there are two types of SOA governance. There is strategic governance which is part of the overall IT governance that deals primarily with funding and other “big” decisions (“big G”). There is also more “tactical” SOA governance which deals mostly with configuration management (CM) (e.g., release management) of individual Web services (“small g”).

There is also Web service management, including SLA monitoring and enforcement, and, perhaps, security, but to me that’s just an operational aspect of SOA governance and it’s distinctly separate from big G (funding) and small g (configuration and change management).

So, having been in a developer’s shoes for the most of my career, I’m primarily interested in “small g”, I’m sure management types can figure out “Big G” much better than I am.

So how this “small g”, or SOA CM, is different from CM that we’ve been doing routinely over the last, well, at least 20 years? Why all of a sudden we’re told that we need new tools for that, such as Web services registries and repositories?

I thought that we already have a repository that we know very well, and this is our version control repository – CVS, SVN, ClearCase, Perforce, whatever. So all our code and code-related artifacts, including, of course, WSDL and schema files (and whatever WS-* files, such as WS-Policy, we’ll need in the future) are already checked into our version control repository of choice. We can do a lot of good things with version control repositories, including all kinds of analysis, diffing, etc. We can develop ant or rake script to integrate build and deploy process with version control. With tools like Maven we can do pretty complicated dependency management. There are also continuous integration tools, build servers, change management tools, reporting tools and all kinds of other software helping us to deal with the code we’re developing. In other words, we know how to “govern” our code and so “governing” a few extra XML files (WSDL, Schema) should not be that difficult or special.

So I just don’t see how a Web services repository is going to make any of these tasks easier.

What we do need is better WSDL and Schema presentation and visualization tools, so that Web service consumers don’t have to always deal with raw XML. But I doubt this task warrants an expensive SOA repository, and there are some tools out there that can do it on the cheap.

SOA repositories also provide some run-time APIs so that service consumers or intermediaries can dynamically discover the most suitable service. Quite frankly, I think this scenario is a little far-fetched, especially given the lack of support for dynamic discovery in existing WS tools and products. Then there is also support for dynamic endpoints a la UDDI (or directly using UDDI standard), but, again, dynamic endpoints can be supported much more easily using configuration files as opposed to heavy-weight run-time APIs. Extremely low acceptance of UDDI is the proof of that.

So perhaps SOA registries and repositories are useful for “Big G” governance tasks (although I have my doubts – e.g., how relevant are WSDL files for funding decisions?), but the “small g”, that is, CM tasks, can certainly be more efficiently handled by existing CM tools. SOA repository vendors should think about extending existing CM tools instead of trying to create specialized environments just for Web services.

2 thoughts on “Who Needs Web Services Repository?

  1. The “small G” has also a lot to do with Controlling the Dependency in a large scale System.

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