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Web Oriented Architecture is here to Stay, and Why Microsoft’s new WCF Stack is interesting.

For the last few months, I was working closely with few customers across domains including telecom, e-learning, health care etc.. There are few recurring themes I’ve observed across the line, and I think some of them are realistic indicators regarding the adoption of WOA in the mainstream.

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Decision Drivers

Organizations are understanding the necessity of making their business logic and data available to multiple end points. REST is evolving more and more as a default choice for building a public service layer, around your existing data and intelligence. So, here are few common concerns for CIOs.

  • Generalizing Investments - How to maximize the ROI by ensuring that your features and functionalities are accessible to a variety of devices.
  • Ensuring Governance - How to ensure a common governance scheme that encompasses all your ‘delta’ investments
  • Ensuring Reusability - How to ensure reusability across your business investments.

And almost all of the above concerns boil down to a strategy where you have a Web Oriented Architecture layer, and a Common Service Layer as part of that which can expose your business over Http to a range of devices. I recommend you to read this article “REST Is A Style, WOA is the Architecture”

The faster you move your investments on top of the value chain and expose your data and business to a wider range of devices, the better is your chance to survive in business.  To quote from this article “Consumerization of IT”

The consumerization of IT is real. A recent IDC survey sponsored by Unisys showed that 40% of devices used to access business applications are personally owned, up 10 percentage points from 2010.

Building your WOA Stack

Now, from an architecture and development stand point, this decomposes to techniques, tools and technologies that’ll enable you to build a useful “WOA full” stack. When you start, most of the so called “REST” APIs disintegrate to mere HTTP APIs, but at least that is a start. Slowly, you can bring in purity for your design by

  • Bringing in a generic WOA container that’ll enable you to deploy, monitor and manage your REST Services with zero configuration
  • Bring in Composition, Hypermedia – so that you enrich your data also with links that represents actions that are possible on the data.
  • Bring in subscriptions and notifications – For example, a service accepting a URL from a subscriber to trigger notification.
  • Bring in load balancing – A per call design will enable you to bring in easy load balancing
  • Bring in caching – If you have a Relational Database, a high performance caching layer like Redis on top of your Database will enable high scalability for your services.

The benefits you leverage out of a proper WOA stack is really straight forward to observe.

  • It exposes your data and logic available to a range of devices including smart phones, tablets, IPTVs, customized browser and desktop apps , social media plugins etc.
  • Data composed with proper hypermedia brings a high degree of abstraction, and will allow the clients to be truly decoupled (from data and operations on top of the data)
  • Provides high degree of scalability because WOA is very light weight.
  • Clients consuming your services are first class consumers – you don’t need proxies that require concrete data contracts.

The new WCF Stack from Microsoft

WCF vNext Web Apis is a promising offering from Microsoft, but the key is evolving curry frameworks and tooling on top of the new Web APIs to support address common WOA concerns. WOA is more or less a set of best practices than a well defined methodology, so I’m not sure to what extent this can be abstracted.

Anyway, the new WCF APIs allows more control for sure, which includes first class support for HTTP and custom media types and formats, and I’ve seen few recent posts from Glenn Block on Hypermedia and Forms which is definitely another interesting read about the concept itself.

How ever, I would like to see more provisioning extensions in the new WCF Framework – like a common container where you can deploy and manage services, scale it etc. It might be interesting to see how the new WCF Web API Stack will compare with similar light weight implementations like Node.js. Also, Microsoft is making a significant effort to bring Node.js to Windows server stack (IIS/Azure). I’ll follow up about that in next couple of posts.

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