OK – I confess it. I am a closet fan of file transfer.
Maybe this is why I get worried sometimes that most SOA toolsets and advocates seem to ignore file transfer. However, as far as I am concerned I see file transfer as absolutely still having an important role to play, in no way replaced by SOA concepts.
The focus of SOA is heavily application-centric. It is all about getting application code and components working together – and some people seem to think that this will eventually remove the need for file transfer – after all, for many companies file transfer is a form of integration, and SOA deals with all that, doesn’t it?
No, it doesn’t. File transfer is still a key component of the integration armoury. The two main reasons are that file transfer offers a clean interface (yes, I know the purists will be killing themselves laughing at this claim, but int he practical sense it is true) between operations, particularly in the B2B (business to business) sense, and it is non-invasive. Could I not achieve the same results with SOA? Well, yes of course, in the B2B case I could implement some services to achieve what I wanted but the partner system would have to play ball. Applications in the partner system would have to be changed to call the services rather than operate on the incoming file as input. When one system receives information from another in the form of a file, there is no requirement placed on the receiving system on how it processes the file – only that it understands the format.
File transfer is simple and effective. In addition, although it is as old as the hills, file transfer tools have actually developed, now offering higher performance and throughput options as well as monitoring facilities and enhanced security and recovery options. And file transfer is ubiquitous – just about every company I ask makes use of file transfer.
I believe file transfer will be with us for a long time yet, so it is important that companies looking to move to SOA remember to factor in file transfer into the overall architectural picture.