Thoughts on enterprise IT

Dustin Amrhein

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Blog Post

SOA in the Cloud: The Cloud of Services

Much like governance in a SOA, governance in the cloud helps to ensure that dynanicism and agility don’t mean chaos

This is a blog about the importance of cloud solutions that are organized as services.

As more and more cloud computing offerings hit the market, I think it is becoming increasingly important that users understand what to look for in such solutions. It is one thing to provide something called a cloud solution, but it is quite another to do so in a way that delivers the most value, flexibility, and agility to its users. However with so many different cloud solutions and vendors out there, what should users really be looking for?

I believe one of the most important things to look for in any cloud computing solution is how the elements of the cloud are structured. Specifically, I think enterprises should look to clouds that present its elements as a set of services. Unlike the services in a SOA which we typically think of as a set of software services, a cloud’s services may be a pool of hardware, storage, data, or applications. In the end though, it’s the job of the cloud to present a set of services for consumption to end users.

So why is it important for enterprises to seek out the cloud of services? Simply put, the service oriented approach provides a basis for cloud governance and management. The concept of managing and governing services is something not all that unfamiliar to most enterprises, thanks to SOA. This approach brings a sense of order to cloud computing, which thanks in no small part to the hype, may sometimes seem like more magic than reality to users.

Once the elements of a cloud are treated as a set of services, it’s easier to then manage those elements. The management I’m talking about is what provides the common features associated with clouds. For instance, management of cloud services may mean that the services are dynamically allocated and deallocated based on the demands of the system (elasticity). On the other hand, cloud service management may provide cloud usage tracking and cloud maintenance capabilities.

It becomes pretty apparent that managing the cloud’s resources is key to being able to deliver a cloud in the first place. Viewing these capabilities as set of services simply provides a logical unit to which said management can be applied.

Beyond the service oriented cloud approach providing a basis for cloud management, it also provides a path to governance. Like SOA, a cloud solution will only be as effective and valuable as its governance model. Governance in the cloud includes an approach for registering the available cloud services, controlling access to the services, defining a change management approach to the services, associating business owners with the services, and much, much more.

Much like governance in a SOA, governance in the cloud helps to ensure that dynanicism and agility don’t mean chaos and disorder.

To be sure, there is a long list of characteristics to look for when searching for an effective cloud computing solution. Personally, I happen to think that the service orientation or structure of a cloud offering is near the top of the list. To me it is proof that the vendor truly gets the cloud, and that the vendor has enabled that cloud to be both managed and governed.

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Dustin Amrhein joined IBM as a member of the development team for WebSphere Application Server. While in that position, he worked on the development of Web services infrastructure and Web services programming models. In his current role, Dustin is a technical specialist for cloud, mobile, and data grid technology in IBM's WebSphere portfolio. He blogs at You can follow him on Twitter at