Support and Optimize SOA and Web 2.0 Applications

Getting the Most Out of Composite Applications with SONA

Today, Web 2.0 and service-oriented architectures (SOAs) are among the top issues of concern for IT architects and executives. Both are poised for exponential growth over the next few years, due to their flexibility, cost effectiveness, and ease of integration. Each technology creates highly distributed composite applications that unite components or subsystems to form higher-level functional systems or target applications.

The growing challenge for enterprise IT architects, however, is that because these composite applications are highly distributed, interactions between components may require several traversals across various areas of the network; each traversal increases the possibility of inconsistent performance or security problems. This issue becomes even more critical when Web 2.0 technologies are applied in order to leverage resources outside of the enterprise domain, using external networks and the Internet. To assure that all elements of highly distributed composite applications operate quickly, efficiently, and securely, enterprises require a pervasive, reliable network. However, it is also important to understand the additional role the network plays in Web 2.0 and SOA applications.

What are composite applications? Web 2.0 mashups (Web applications that combine data from more than one source into a single integrated tool) and SOA are the most prominent and discussed exponents in this category. They are composed of loosely coupled subsystems to form a higher-level functional system or target application. These subsystems can be data sources or services that perform a particular function, accepting input from and providing output to the target application. Composite applications can provide tremendous flexibility and, properly designed, offer high levels of business agility and productivity due to their ability to be reconfigured relatively quickly.

While the network provides pervasive visibility of components from end to end, it actually contributes far more. It supports composite applications in three areas. Let’s look at each of these individually.

Enablement. Without the network, composite applications cannot function; therefore network availability is the most fundamental service building block. Performance is crucial as well: bandwidth, latency, and packet loss all have a direct impact in this area.

A network design using a SONA approach for acceleration services significantly mitigates the performance impact of composite application environments. XML-specific network intelligence, as implemented by the Cisco ACE XML Gateway, significantly improves performance and security of the entire composite application system. The gateway offers more than 30,000 XML transactions per second, dramatically reducing end-to-end application latency and improving concurrency.

Security. The composite application environment also poses a whole new set of security challenges. Access points into the application infrastructure multiply with every component orchestrated by the composite application. Moreover, components may reside outside of corporate boundaries, posing a potential threat to corporate systems. While relying on XML provides powerful benefits, the distributed and open nature of the composite application environment opens the door to greater security risk.

The Cisco SONA-based network plays an essential role in identifying a wide range of attacks, monitoring suspicious behavior, and protecting the enterprise infrastructure. This role becomes even more crucial in a composite application environment. The SONA-based network provides specialized security functions for XML-based services that protect and secure the emerging composite application infrastructure.

Enrichment. The agility of composite applications makes them a natural choice to help accelerate business processes, breaking down the barriers to effective collaboration. This relies on the removal of any silos when it comes to sharing relevant data among extended team members irrelevant of location, device, or time considerations. The SONA-based network offers critical services that can be used to enrich composite applications with identity, mobility, location, presence, resource-allocation, and session-control capabilities. These services can therefore be integrated directly into the business process and enterprise application.

As Web 2.0 and SOA gain traction in the enterprise, CIOs and IT managers must decide where best to employ these technologies and optimize the performance of composite applications. The network, which touches all the endpoints where the application resources and components reside, is a powerful vehicle for providing many network- and application-level services. The Cisco SONA approach helps enterprises build business solutions using network services to help ensure secure and reliable composite-application performance.