Avoiding platform integration risks with SA Forum based middleware

Joe and Alan walk us through the role the Service Availability Forum (SA Forum) plays in both reducing risk and speeding up development time, citing an example in which an Enea customer cut R&D integration costs.

The SA Forum AIS and HPI provide a mature middleware architecture and APIs. Over the last decade, a diverse number of SA Forum members have put these specifications through several generations of review. Also, the specifications incorporate feedback from multiple middleware implementers (including commercial vendors), as well as feedback and validation by application developers and system architects. A middleware implementation based on the AIS architecture is not a moving target, so there is no anticipated middleware redesign iteration. Having access to the middleware architecture at the beginning of the application design cycle allows the developers to proceed with clear guidance on what functionality they will use to build scalable, highly available applications. This early access shortens the design cycle, as shown in Figure 4. Having mature middleware APIs accelerates the implementation cycle. The integration with a pre-integrated, off-the-shelf middleware/hardware platform can begin during the application implementation phase.

Figure 4: Implementation cycles become smaller with the availability of mature middleware APIs.

Additional time can be saved using middleware and hardware that support the HPI interface (Figure 5). Traditionally middleware is either tied to a specific hardware platform or includes a hardware porting layer that needs to be implemented by the system integrator (often the customer). In the former case, the system integrator has to choose a particular hardware/middleware combination, which may require undesirable compromises. In the latter case, the system integrator must implement the hardware porting layer, which takes weeks to months. With hardware vendors that support an available HPI implementation (either from the hardware vendor, a third party, or open source like OpenHPI) and middleware vendors that access hardware resources and events through the HPI interface, the integration can be completed in a matter of hours to days.

Figure 5: Using middleware and hardware that support the HPI interface cuts development time.


Risk shrinks for many of the same reasons that development time accelerates. The maturity of the middleware architecture and interfaces reduces the likelihood of shortsighted system architecture and/or redesign due to API redesign/refactoring. Using the HPI to integrate the middleware and the hardware affords greater flexibility and reduces risk. The ability to manage vendor selection can help when a hardware or middleware vendor is no longer viable for business reasons or where changes in requirements make another vendor preferable.

Time to hone competitiveness

Out of the initial three-month demo preparation period, Enea’s customer spent one to two weeks in middleware training activities and another week near the end of the period integrating onto the target hardware. The rest of the time was spent developing the secret sauce applications that differentiate the product from its would-be competitors.

This use of the customer’s time resulted in a smooth integration, leading to a solution that met or exceeded all schedule goals. The demo was ready in three months, and the selection of SA Forum-based middleware eliminated major platform integration risks and reduced R&D integration costs by a factor of two.

At a higher level, service availability in general is becoming increasingly significant in the business world, as customers now expect that services will work continuously. The SA Forum is currently educating a broader audience on the benefits of service availability and is sharing practical information about SA Forum specifications and implementations in new ways. Whether a service provider needs more information on service availability when negotiating a Service Level Agreement (SLA) or a business manager is looking to differentiate a new online application, the SA Forum is striving to make this wide range of information easily accessible.

No upside to downtime

The Service Availability Forum is focused on building the awareness of service availability solutions and has launched a new cartoon series, “Walter’s Moments,” to demonstrate the need for service availability in daily life (Figure 6, courtesy of SA Forum). Like the Foursquare users and Chase customers who recently faced outages, Walter learns the costs of using services that do not have a very high level of availability.

Figure 6: A new cartoon series and ongoing webcasts are part of the SA Forum education efforts.

In addition to the newly launched cartoon series, the SA Forum is pleased to announce the latest installment in our well-received Application Webcast Series, “An Introduction to Software Management Framework.” This service is one of the most recent specifications developed by the Forum and addresses what is considered a critical requirement for service availability – seamless upgrade/downgrade of software and hardware components.

It also explores Software Management Framework (SMF) key features and benefits as well as the first real-world implementation from the Open Service Availability Framework (OpenSAF) open source project. With upgrades to software and hardware commonplace in most systems, the (SMF)  is an important component in the comprehensive set of service availability specifications. Future webcast topics include an introduction to the HPI specification and a high-level overview of the SEC Framework, a compelling security feature for application developers.

With the measurable benefits offered by SA Forum specifications, including enabling an application development ecosystem, reduction of cost and risk, and faster time to market, we expect continued momentum in deployments based on SA Forum specifications. For more information, please visit http://saforum.org.

If you are interested in sharing any of your experiences with downtime or ideas for future cartoon installments, please visit the Service Availability Professionals LinkedIn group and post a comment.

Joe Kidder is a member of the Service Availability Forum Technical Working Group. He is the Chief Architect for HA Middleware at Enea, based in Nashua, New Hampshire. Joe has 25 years of experience in the computing and networking industry, with a focus on systems and software engineering. He received his M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Dr. Alan Meyer is Marketing Chair of the Service Availability Forum. He is also the Director of Telecom Platform Software at HP, based in Fort Collins, Colorado. Alan has more than 25 years of experience in the computing industry, with a focus on communications and open source software. He received his M.S. and Ph.D. in Computer Science from Washington State University.

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