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February 7, 2006

Service Catalogs and SOA

Boris By Boris Pevzner

Recently, I’ve been getting a lot of questions on how the IT Service Catalog relates to SOA… after all, “IT Service Management” and “Service Oriented Architecture” frameworks both talk about “services” – so they must be related, right?

Well, sort of.  Since SOA is a methodology that encourages software standardization and reuse, it is clearly aligned in spirit with “IT productization” and IT Service Management.  Thus it makes sense that both have “service catalogs” at the very core of their respective frameworks.  However, the current state of the art in the industry is that these two service catalog concepts are largely disjoint.  The following is a summary of the parallels and differences between them.

  • IT Service Catalog deals with business-facing IT services at the very top of the IT stack.
    • Key goal: Repeatable delivery of IT services to business users (captures process IP)
    • Example services: Onboarding and offboarding of employees, providing application hosting and managed storage services, providing managed access to key business critical applications, etc.
    • Metadata in the Catalog: The service description metadata for such services is mostly business-focused, with attributes such as service features, cost and price models, service level objectives, etc.
  • SOA Service Catalog (aka Service Registry), on the other hand, deals with application services (provided by reusable software components) that are typically found further down around the middle (though not at the bottom!) of the IT stack (example: updating a loan application is an SOA service, updating a record in a database isn’t).
    • Key goal: Reusability of the company's software assets (captures software IP)
    • Example services: Authentication, customer profile management, order fulfillment, and other pieces of functionality reusable across multiple business applications.  Generally, an SOA “service” is a function that is well-defined, self-contained, and does not depend on the context or state of other services.  The SOA Service Catalog is the registry of such reusable services.
    • Metadata in the Catalog: The service description metadata typically kept in the SOA Service Catalog contains elements needed to assemble these reusable components into business applications.

While what is contained inside the IT and SOA service catalogs is quite different, the processes for how they are managed have quite a bit on common:

  • In both cases, one needs to manage the entire lifecycle of the services, from their creation to change to retirement… this means that service versioning must be accommodated by the supporting service catalog management tools.
  • Since both service catalogs are hierarchical, the management tools need to support relationships to allow inheritance and bundling of lower-level component services into higher-level business services.
  • From the service design “best practices” point of view, in both cases, one really needs to start with the high-level definitions of what the services ought to be in order to satisfy the business need, before worrying about the implementation details.

Recently, I noticed that some of our larger and more mature clients (particularly in the Financial Services sector) have begun trying to bridge these two service catalog “domains” by developing comprehensive service hierarchies (and the associated metadata models) that span software component services, infrastructure services, and business services.  The main justification for this is the compliance requirements (such as SOX), which require the ability to perform accurate business impact analysis (“How will an incident or a change to the underlying software or infrastructure components affect the business service?”).

This convergence is still quite far away, however.  For now, IT Service Catalogs remain only tangentially related to SOA in most Global 1000 implementation.

Posted on February 7, 2006 | Permalink


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Hello Boris,
I am putting together a conference on Software Asset Management & Software Licensing. This is to be held on July 24-26 2006 in Chicago. I would love for you to hold a workshop there on Integrating ITIL across the organization. Please contact me if you are interested & I can give you more information.


Posted by: Rupande Mehta | Mar 30, 2006 4:12:37 PM

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