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Monday, October 03, 2005

Spiral Staircase: Going Up or Down?

Jon Udell asks a great question...

In the realm of service-oriented design and business-process modeling, what are the modern counterparts to Lisp and Smalltalk?
First, who says Lisp and Smalltalk are not "modern"?

Second, I don't know the answer. Neither Lisp nor Smalltalk offer more than any other tools for these purposes. I don't think we have much in these spaces yet.

An argument could be made that for service-oriented design the counterpart seems to be HTTP. Whether or not HTTP is the best we can do is moot. Lisp and Smalltalk were allowed to evolve in elite laboratories for a decade or more before widespread adoption. HTTP is simple with demonstrated success, but I'm not sure a successor will emerge from an MIT or a PARC anytime soon.

As for process modeling... we are in worse shape. I developed electronic design and manufacturing software (e-CAD, CAM) for many years, 1983-1993. This work included developing schematic editors as well as software that consumed schematic data. In those days there were few standards for this kind of software, interchange formats, or protocols.

I see several parallels to todays BPM software. Standards like BPEL are a start, but there is a long way to go on the front and back ends for these systems.

Back to services... I think we have a long way to go here as well. Most services I am aware of (whether they are REST or WS-*) are built on languages that emphasize the "inward view" of the system (e.g. the arrangement of code and data within the process) rather than the "outward view" (e.g. the service interface and contract). Sure there are "declarative metadata" schemes in various languages for denoting some function should be a web service, etc. But these schemes are bolted on to previous generation languages. Accessing semi-formal data from multiple sources and "mashing" these together appear to be another capability in demand.

What other capabilities should such a language provide? What about features for security? Availability? Distribution?

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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.