The Importance of Composite Applications in Service-Oriented Architecture

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This document describes the role of composite applications and composite application platforms in a service-oriented architecture. Composite application platforms can eliminate many of the traditional problems with integration, and Vivek shows you how.

By Vivek Mehta

06 Dec 2006


The Role of Composite Applications in Service-Oriented Architecture

A composite application is a transactional application consisting of business functionality and information from varied information sources. Composite applications are a form of integration, as well as application development. They are designed to support a company's business processes and map them to underlying information resources.

Composite applications are the end products of a service-oriented architecture (SOA). They represent the business value a company derives from its SOA. Whether the composite applications are designed for internal or partner use, they represent how any company can map business needs and processes to underlying information assets using SOA principles.

There are a couple of foundational elements behind any composite application. The first element is called “right-sized services” or “business services,” and forms the base of composite applications. Easily and visually building the business services so they make sense to an IT analyst or business analyst is crucial, as well as ensuring the reusability of these business services across the enterprise through a metadata repository. The other element is providing the ability for companies to assemble these different business services together to form the actual composite application—without any coding.

Problem Solving Using Composite Applications

Composite application platforms eliminate a number of the issues surrounding traditional integration.

First, composite application platforms don't require that you copy data from one silo to another, as ETL (extract, transform, and load) or EAI (enterprise application integration) products want you to do. This forces you to keep the data in synchronization between a “system of record” and a system that to copy the data to in order to enable integration. Instead, a composite application platform just retrieves pieces of data from the various systems of record, precisely and only when needed, to bring that data into the composite application for transactions at the time that transactions are taking place. Any data that needs to be written is written straight to the system of record. Composite applications eliminate the need for redundant copies of data, as well as the discrepancies that occur because of such copying and storing of data in multiple systems.

Second, anyone can build business services from the underlying Web services by hand, but that takes time. It's also more difficult to manage, and it adds complexity to the integration problem. A composite application platform provides a visual means to build these business services and then assemble them together into composite applications, which is a significant step forward in easing integration challenges.

Finally, composite application platforms deliver a means to store and reuse all the elements, as metadata, associated with the end application. Specifically, they enable the reuse of the individual Web services (the “right-sized” business services), the relationships among the different services, and the composite applications themselves. This facilitates rapid response to business change, the goal of every organization.

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