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Interview: Ricco Deutscher on "SOPERA"

Posted by Stefan Tilkov on May 15, 2007 |

Deutsche Post World Net, one of the world largest logistics companies (and owner of DHL) have been creating a company-wide SOA for several years now. Within this context, Deutsche Post has created a “SOA platform”, called “SOPERA”, which aims to be a full-featured SOA environment, including a federated, JBI-based ESB, a registry/repository server, security components (for authentication, authorization, encryption and signature), and a centralized configuration service. Today, SOPERA announced it will contribute its platform to the Eclipse Foundation, with the goal of using it as the basis for a SOA Runtime Framework under the Eclipse umbrella. InfoQ’s Stefan Tilkov had a chance to talk to Ricco Deutscher, Managing Director of the newly founded company behind the platform. The new company, also called SOPERA, will become an Eclipse board member.

InfoQ: Why did you decide to co-operate with the Eclipse foundation?

Ricco Deutscher (RD): The biggest advantage of Eclipse compared to Apache and other open-source consortia is the governance structure. It allows Eclipse to align loosely-coupled projects in a way that there are able to form joint releases. We considers this as a first step towards an open-source stack.. SOPERA should become part of this future stack.

InfoQ: What are the main benefits of the platform?

RD: For customers, we see three benefits: Cost reduction, to be more exact: TCO reduction, because there are no licensing costs and because skills are available on the market; Choice - due to the plugin concept, exchangeability of components is provided; and finally: Influence, i.e. the opportunity to become part of the community and influence future development. For ISV partners it means access to a growing market — we expect that the framework will become so wide-spread that there will be a viable market for third-party components that integrate with it. Finally, for SI partners: the ability to capture the potential value for their customers. We see a growing trend in the market for small and fast-growing SIs that have a strong focus on open source technologies, and these are the sort of companies that can benefit the most from our offering.

InfoQ: This begs the question: How do you make money?

RD: We believe we’ll have three sources of revenue: Support and maintenance, technical consulting and training (not as much as competition, but more as enablement for the SIs) and standard open source development - i.e. the ability to develop tailor-made solutions based on the communities needs.

InfoQ: So if there are “standard open source developments”, will they become part of the open source framework, or remain closed?

RD: If we develop something, it will always to be to the advantage of the platform. That’s the whole purpose! Clearly, there’s going to be a need for customer-specific development, too; but we see this as the SIs’ business, not ours.

InfoQ: Is the analogy to Linux distributions intentional?

RD: Absolutely, this is what we’re looking for. This where we want to be moving to in the long term.

InfoQ: Will you retain the copyright, i.e. will there be a dual licensing model?

RD: No, we really mean open source when we say open source: everyone can commit changes based on their merit, not based on whether or not they are on our payroll.

InfoQ: Moving to some more technical questions: what is unique about this platform as opposed to others?

RD: Basically, it mainly comes down to these factors: 1. We support the complete service life cycle, from design and implementation through to deployment, operations and monitoring 2. we (plan to) support .NET as one option for developing service consumers and providers 3. the whole framework is based on policy-driven mediation as one of the main differentiators 4. the framework is of a highly federated nature, i.e. there is no single hub or even bus component 5. we provide a means for centralized configuration 6. the platform includes the concept of technical service providers, i.e. functionality traditionally placed within the middleware is exposed as open services.

InfoQ: The platform is based on Java Business Integration (JBI). What are your future plans with regards to JBI? What JBI container do you use?

RD: We’re definitely committed to JBI for integration of external components We also plan to participate in JBI 2.0 standardization. We’re using the JBI container from Oracle.

InfoQ: What about SCA and SDO?

RD: We do not currently support SCA, but we definitely plan to. The support of SDO is open.

InfoQ: What is the significance of the .NET integration, i.e. why would one use SOPERA tools in a WCF environment?

RD: Arguably, there is no convincing reason to use SOPERA tools in a pure .NET scenario. But things are different in a heterogeneous environment — SOPERA offers a set of advanced SOA components, including technical service providers, that cleanly integrate with both .NET and Java-based service providers and service consumers.

InfoQ: When do you believe to have a first version available to play with?

RD: By the end of this year when the first open source release becomes available. Unfortunately we cannot make it earlier.

InfoQ: Thanks for your time!

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