Composable Chat: Towards a SOA-based Enterprise Chat System

Barry Demchak and Ingolf Krueger
April 28, 2008

Enterprise Chat has emerged as one of the key tools for rapid communication, decision making, and situational awareness across a wide spectrum of application domains, ranging from massively multi-player online games (MMOs) to multi-national corporations to public safety and defense. This report is motivated by the increasing need to flexibly bridge multiple existing and emerging standards and technology platforms for Enterprise Chat. A promising approach to this effect is the use of Service-Oriented Architecture methodology and technology, as this combination has been used successfully across the industry in other enterprise integration projects. To determine the viability of this approach, we have performed a case study on the use of an SOA-based approach to unifying disparate IM/chat systems into a system-of-systems framework. This approach leverages enterprise-wide services, but without risking the IM/chat systems’ existing functionality. In collaboration with the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR), we modeled both a conceptual IM/chat system and existing IM/chat systems to understand the fundamental roles and interactions comprising these systems. We then organized these roles and interactions using a Rich Services [1] architectural pattern that defines a hierarchy incorporating an enterprise service layer and local system integration layers. The result is a SOA that informs the design of a system of IM/chat systems that not only meets the flexible integration goal stated above, but enables many practical operational affordances and allows governance across multiple administrative and organizational domains. Additionally, it points the way toward extending IM/chat systems to deliver richer and more effective content. We have found that careful modeling of the Enterprise Chat domain, as well as of the individual standards and technologies, is one prerequisite to successful integration. As a second key prerequisite, we have identified the use of Rich Services to support principled, scalable integration while addressing many crosscutting concerns such as security, policy/governance, presence, and failure management. These lessons learned can be applied across all types of large enterprises that are characterized by multiple administrative and organizational domains, and that can similarly benefit from the integration of their disparate support systems. By supporting a system-of-systems integration, Rich Services has the potential of leveraging existing and emergent enterprise assets to unleash hidden enterprise value.

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