"I have a mind like a steel... uh... thingy." Patrick Logan's weblog.

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Saturday, September 29, 2007

Enterprise URIs

I saw the page in our wiki where fuzzy was working out some uri's. That *is* cool...

I'd rather bet on the URI than any ESB vendor...

With a URI naming scheme that doesn't change you get a very different, very simple view of your systems. Sure, there may be madness today behind those URIs, but over time that madness will hopefully start to go away. But your URIs will stay the same.

Rather than selling proprietary ESB middleware, "integration" vendors should be developing and selling "information architecture" expertise as well as experience in planning and developing simple tools, that don't hurt the web, around the awful messes every organization has and would like to move away from over time.

Update: Ross Mason comments...

I agree that URI design is very important, but I'm not sure I understand what that has to do with ESB vendors. In the Mule we use URI to express service endpoints, but this isn't limited to http but also Jms queues, data repostiories even IM and EJBs. However, in all these cases, we, the vendor, don't control how the URIs are defined above ensuring that they are valid. Can you elaborate a little on your comments about the ESB vendor involvement?
Good question. Over the last few years, in a couple of different IT shops, I have been directly involved in "SOA" efforts. At the same time I have been a fairly close observer of other similar efforts. In each of these efforts a lot of time has been devoted to products in the ESB category.

My primary concern over the last 25 years of software development has been the inability for the software developers to make a change they would otherwise choose to make, except for the fact that making that change is inordinately too difficult. The difficulty in almost all circumstances were due to implementation details of one component being expressed as dependencies by another component. In order to change A, you also have to change B, and usually worse than that.

As a result the *apparently* most cost-effective choice *in the moment* usually is, "don't change anything". And so these problems compound with more problems over time until the entire data center is in a development deadlock. Nothing significant can be improved because everything depends on everything else. I've been involved in a couple of situations where the big changes *were* funded and they are nightmares.

To avoid, or to climb out of, such massive technical debt, an enterprise must invest in separation of concerns, abstractions that hide details as much as possible, "wedges", if you will, between the components that should be able to change independently. The WS-* proponents envisioned WSDL-based interfaces as such "wedges". The message bus proponents (and I was one of those for a long time) envisioned "messages" as such wedges. The distributed object proponents (and I was one of those for a long time too) envisioned "objects" as such wegdes.

I was never a WSDL/WS-* fan, but I still believe reasonable solutions could be implemented with messages and/or objects in many data center situations. But taking a step further back, I can now see how identifying the significant "resources" of an organization, and how to identify (and "locate") those can be even more abstract than messages or objects. Atom, for example, can be used to identify, locate, manipulate, and announce changes to resources over time. Nothing at that level must be said about the lower-level techniques (e.g. messages and/or objects) used to do so.

I would like to say as little as possible at the enterprise level about how I implemented the enterprise. An ESB product may or may not fit in somewhere behind the scenes (that's another discussion). I would like products and technologies to come and go as desired without unduly affecting the rest of the enterprise.

An ESB, or any kind of "bus" or object system is not an architecture, per se. They may help to realize an architecture. Right now it looks like "the web" is a pretty good architecture for the enterprise.

Third parties, such as ESB vendors, over time could have more real success with enterprises by helping them implement web-like architectures rather than helping them install and configure ESBs. Mule may play a role here or there behind the scenes, but enterprises need to learn how to build more lasting structures ("information architectures" may be a decent name for it) and focus less on the plumbing that they've been sold by the ESB vendors.

1 comment:

Ross Mason said...

Hi, I agree that URI design is very important, but I'm not sure I understand what that has to do with ESB vendors. In the Mule we use URI to express service endpoints, but this isn't limited to http but also Jms queues, data repostiories even IM and EJBs. However, in all these cases, we, the vendor, don't control how the URIs are defined above ensuring that they are valid.
Can you elaborate a little on your comments about the ESB vendor involvement?

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Portland, Oregon, United States
I'm usually writing from my favorite location on the planet, the pacific northwest of the u.s. I write for myself only and unless otherwise specified my posts here should not be taken as representing an official position of my employer. Contact me at my gee mail account, username patrickdlogan.