Sunday, October 21, 2007

SOA Certifications

When I think about taking certifications that are based on SOA I am put off quite badly. Here are a list of certifications that I could probably get my hands on

  • Sun - Java web services (Not really SOA, but covers a part of it)
  • BEA's SOA certification - Currently I work with this server
  • IBM's SOA certification

Sun's certification is quite neutral, in that it does not attempt to push through its own products in the name of certifying you. However this certification is quite outdated. The last time I wanted to host a web service I used apache Axis. More recently after moving to weblogic 9, the integrated web services look promising and they are available via the workshop IDE for weblogic as well. This certification does not give as much juice as you would like to have.

BEA's SOA certification strategy was starting to look promising until I started hunting for their study material. The courses were pretty costly and there was no way to pass the certification unless I bought them. This really put me off. If a client were to approach me and ask me how they could service enable their apps, I might end up saying 'uuhhhhhh......'. This is not to say that their SOA resource center is bad. They do have a couple of articles on what their products are. However there is no string of articles that lists them down, teaches you what they can do and cant, and when and where you can apply them. I cannot pay the earth for the courses that they offer.

IBM's SOA certifications are divided in layers. From associate, you climb your way up. The training material is available via the IBM website and it was much more easily accessible. A few require you to shell some cash, but if your company is partnering with IBM, you can get them for free. My point is that their products and view of SOA are quite accessible. I do not use IBM products at my current project however. So that leaves this certification out as well.

Any certification should aim at giving the candidate an overview and boundaries of a technology / product. Or in case of architecture certifications, much more than that, a clear understanding of what the technologies are and how to put them together. Right now SOA is a mix of both. It does have some standards like the BPEL and common use of SOA solutions like webservices with SOAP etc. However each vendor has their own view of what SOA really is. A SOA certification at this point in time is certainly going to be targeted at a particular vendor. You learn about the vendor's product more than SOA itself.

Currently IBM seems to be pushing for a so called SOA foundation. I attended a seminar where Rob High, chief architect for the IBM SOA foundation spoke of how they were aiming to standardize SOA, programming models, definitions, and the like. That is quite interesting. I wonder how that will turn out. Perhaps we can have an open standard and allow vendors to implement it in their own way, much like the JVM, MQ, JNDI technologies of today. That might still not help SOA certifications be vendor neutral, but atleast they will be less divergent in their views of SOA.

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