On September 21st, I had the opportunity to participate in a webcast (SOA: Crossing the Application-Network Boundary)with the analysts at ZapThink. The webcast is a great primer addressing the challenges - and importance - of including the network in SOA planning and deployment. (Click here to see it - registration is required)


Too often, I talk with companies that are planning their SOA without thinking about the role their network plays in the delivery of their Web services. When considering old, outdated network technology, I can understand this. But, with new-generation, smart network devices (such as BIG-IP v9), the network can - AND - should play a role to help improve reliability, performance, security, and scale while offloading certain application functions to dedicated appliances designed to handle them.


Smart network devices like BIG-IP:

  • Provide a service interface (in the Web services language the application tier speaks - SOAP/XML) for either SOA management tools or even the service themselves to influence how the network actually delivers the service. They can even dynamically adjust server resources to support SLAs and QoS on the service. F5 does this with the iControl API. Virtually anything you can do with the GUI/CLI is exposed as SOAP/XML for fast, application fluent integration.
  • Understand the granular details of SOA traffic (header AND payload via a full-proxy architecture) and enable developers (through iRules) to look for specific types of services, intercept them, inspect them deeply for security credentials, and either transform (i.e. rewrite URIs, insert header information, etc.) them or simply route them to the best resources to deliver the service. This is also bi-directional with BIG-IP. Here's a great example of how you can strip out credit card numbers (or Social Security numbers) on any HTTP request that may accidentally include them.


So, if you're thinking SOA, you may want to make sure you're working with network gear that understands Web service traffic natively AND can interact with your management tools and Web services in a Web services native manner. It can significant mitigate your risk of deployment and ensure more reliable, fast, and secure deployments.


Who's planning or building SOA out there? I'd like to hear about it. Is the network included in your planning? What benenfits do you see - or - what challenges are you facing?