Posted by: Simone Pringle, Information Technology Division, Enterprise Architect
Imagine you manage an office supply store and that you sell everything from staples and paper clips to binders, pencils, printers and computers. Chances are, you’ve organized your store in such a manner that your customers can easily come in and find what they are looking for: “Binders in aisle 4; pencils in aisle 7”. In fact, you probably posted signs at the end of each aisle, making it clear to your customers where to find things. If instead, supplies were randomly scattered throughout your store, customers would have difficulty finding what they need: they would quickly become frustrated, leave and never shop at your store again… Additionally, if your store had a catalog that you mailed out to your customers, you would likely have a table of contents or an index that would help customers find and order items from your catalogue.
Providers organize and index to make it possible for their clients to discover and use the goods and services they offer.
IT services are no different than other types of services, in this respect: services need to be presented to potential clients in a manner that is inductive to use. Technical service providers rely on tools known as repository and registry to help organize and index service offerings, respectively.
At a minimum, entries in the service repository track information about each service, such as the service name, description, business owner, service level agreements (SLAs), version(s), documentation, cost of accessing service, etc. More sophisticated repositories will help service providers and their authorized partners track the service development lifecycle - from design to deployment, as well as the service’s dependencies on infrastructure, software tools, and other services and applications. Different types of users will gain insight into a particular service, by viewing different aspects of the data stored in the repository: project managers can evaluate progress in the development of an updated version of the service; clients can review SLAs and compare with how the service offering meets their business needs; software architects can access the metadata to determine how to integrate with the service, etc. Open standards efforts such as the OASIS SOA Repository Artifact Model and Protocol (S-RAMP) are underway to formalize a common data model, as well as a protocol for accessing data in repositories.
Once a service is in the repository, it still needs to be indexed in a manner that makes it easier for an interested client to discover the service. Typically, each service in the repository is tagged as being part of one or more categories of services. This categorization is based on a classification scheme, also known as taxonomy. The taxonomy makes it possible for items in the repository to be discovered through the registry in a process that is similar to finding a store item following the aisle sign or a product using the index for the store’s catalogue. The Universal Description, Discovery and Integration (UDDI) standard specifies a SOAP-based web service standard for discovering services according to published taxonomies. Finally, access to services is controlled in a secure manner by filtering service inquiries based on authorization settings.
The Information Technology Division of the Commonwealth is designing and deploying an Enterprise-level solution for service registry and repository that will make it easier for Agencies to collaborate by publishing and consuming technical services. Eventually, the Commonwealth’s Service “Marketplace” will make it possible for Agencies and their partners to further enhance the quality of services we provide the citizens of the Commonwealth.