8 years, 1 month ago

Service Boundaries in SOA

Link: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/Soapbox/~3/Sy-ORza76yM/service-boundaries-in-soa.html

A service has explicit boundaries

This is one of the four tenets of SOA, promulgated by Microsoft and others around 2004. In its (now discontinued) Connected Services Framework (3.0 SP1), it is identified as one of the four principles of service-oriented design.

  • Boundaries are explicit
  • Services are autonomous
  • Services share schema and contract, not class
  • Service compatibility is determined based on policy

I found a presentation on the MSDN website by Udi Dahan called SOA in the Real World (ppt), in which this tenet is expanded as follows.

Services run in a separate process from their clients
A boundary must be crossed to get from the client to the service – network, security, …

Also on the MSDN website, I found some design guidance from ramkoth called Service Boundaries, Business Services and Data, in which the same tenet is expanded as follows.

Services explicitly choose to expose certain (business) functions outside the boundary. Another tenet of SOA is that a service – within its boundary – owns, encapsulates and protect its private data.

In SOA, dollar signs and trust boundaries, Rocky Lhotka describes SOA as a mechanism for bridging trust boundaries. He argues that SOA is expensive (in terms of complexity and performance), and can only decrease the overall cost and complexity when used for inter-application communication across trust boundaries. Trust is not just a security issue, but also a future-proofing issue, because we can’t always be sure what future applications will do. A trust boundary therefore helps protect us from an uncertain future, and builds some degree of flexibility into the system of systems.

Where did all the boundaries go?

Now here’s the funny thing. All of the pieces I’ve quoted above were published in 2004, as are the vast majority of hits in the first several pages of Internet search. Apart from one Bill Poole, who published a few blogposts in early 2008 on Service Boundaries, the internet seems to have more or less dropped the concept of service boundary. So am I looking in the wrong place, or has the internet been infected by the misleading rhetoric of boundarylessness?

I’m also struck by the apparently rapid disappearance of something that had been promulgated as an SOA principle. If you think that principles are timeless truths, think again.


In his latest post Service Boundaries Aren’t Process Boundaries Udi Dahan replies with a correction of his 2004 presentation. He points out that his later posts (from 2007 onwards) no longer assert that services must run in a separate “system” or “process”. (One reason for this is that the concepts of “system” or “process” belong in a different architectural view.) He still appears to believe in explicit service boundaries, but he is now thinks it’s more appropriate to base these on business capabilities. Meanwhile in a new post on Service Boundaries, Lawrence Wilkes outlines the CBDI position, explains that the service boundaries are orthogonal to various other boundaries, including resource, technology and organizational boundaries, and shows how services can be used to cross these boundaries.