The capabilities of a SOA "soft appliance"

In my last blog post I wrote about the origin of the idea behind a new category of enterprise infrastructure which I referred to as a SOA "soft appliance". This post is about the key features and characteristics of a SOA "soft appliance" and how we have manifested those features in the Intel SOA Expressway platform.

First, let's talk about the appliance characteristics of the SOA "soft appliance". Many SOA and XML appliances start with a value proposition of a performance and scalability boost in processing XML. SOA Expressway message processing speed performs on par or better than leading hardware-bundled products and has orders of magnitude increased performance over software only XML processing and integration stacks. If you are interested in more details behind this, please check out this blog from Infosys and / or click the Intel SOA Expressway link to request the performance study done by PushToTest.

Next are the security, manageability, and ease of configuration aspects of an appliance. Intel SOA Expressway's heritage is from our acquisition of Sarvega, Inc. which initially provided a hardware SOA appliance solution. In the soft appliance, we preserved and evolved the inline security features for reliable, high-speed XML firewall/denial-of-service protection, WS-security profile support, message encrypt/decrypt, on the wire policy enforcement and identity management integration (like LDAP, SiteMinder, etc.). We also preserved and extended the manageability aspects such as self-correcting algorithms of the product to detect and systematically resolve failed processes / messages, support for direct interfaces to enterprise management consoles (such as OpenView, Tivoli, etc.), and a rich logging sub-system for identifying trends in operation and pin-pointing architectural hotspots.

Third, let's cover the "soft/software" characteristics. A "soft appliance" is unbundled from a specific implementation of a hardware build. It can be virtualized to support cost effective and flexible development through production environments, run on standard operating systems to leverage existing investments in messaging, storage and manageability, as well as can be effectively re-deployed on new generations of hardware configurations to meet the evolving needs of a business providing a continual increase in its value proposition without having to "throw out" the appliance as new technology generations arrive. Lastly, it can be user-extended to support varied data formats, network protocols, and deployment configurations without fundamentally compromising its performance or manageability characteristics.

The bottom line: a SOA "soft appliance" delivers the scalability, performance, security and management functionality of a dedicated hardware appliance with the flexibility and cost advantages of software. Our deep understanding of multi-core processors and ability to render its advantages in software makes this possible.

At this point, you are probably wondering … "How is this different from an ESB?", and / or "How is this different from a hardware-based XML/SOA acceleration and security appliance?". Very good questions and I will share my thoughts on those questions in the next couple of posts.

Thanks for getting this far. I look forward to hearing from you about your thoughts on the capabilities of a SOA "soft appliance" and how you think it might or might not help to improve your architecture.


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1 comment

anonymous's picture

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