Specifications designed to structure IT assets more effectively as a series of reusable services that perform business functions have been made available by IBM in conjunction with companies including BEA Systems, Oracle, SAP, Siebel and Sybase.
The Service Component Architecture (SCA) and Service Data Objects (SDO) are part of a service oriented architecture. SCA provides an open, technology-neutral model for implementing IT services that are defined in terms of a business function and make middleware functions more accessible to the application developer.
SDO aims to provide a common way to access different kinds of data. IBM said this could reduce the level of skill and amount of time required to access and manipulate business data.
By structuring applications as a series of services, IT assets become more agile and organisations are better able to align their investments in dynamic business environments, according to IBM.
The company said one area where the specification could help is in mortgage lending. With SCA and SDO, a mortgage provider could reduce the complexity of automating the loan approval process by developing a set of interconnected "services" based on existing applications tying data on new home owners, such as credit reports, to processes for ordering home appraisals and rate locking.
Neil Ward-Dutton, a partner at analyst firm Macehiter Ward-Dutton, said, "The SCA/SDO programming model initiative has a lot of potential." However, he added that the suppliers needed to keep the specifications simple to ensure that a wide range of users could implement them.
Ward-Dutton also said people needed to know when the technology would be handed to a standards body. "Standardisation of a technology has to take input from commercial experience from technology innovators and early adopters, as well as making the technology appealing to the larger population of mainstream adopters," he said.
In a recent paper, Gartner analysts Daniel Sholler and David Mitchell Smith said SCA should simplify the integration between runtime and development software by providing streamlined, easier-to-use tools for deploying and managing complex service oriented applications.
Gartner predicted it would take at least 24 months for most users to recognise the need for SCA. However, SCA and SDO are available royalty free as the consortium seeks industry feedback.