SOA Lifecycle Meta Design

SOA Service Lifecycle
The service focus of SOA gives the life-cycle a special importance in the adoption and success of SOA within an organisation.  The concept and evolution of a service should follow predictable paths and be subject to predetermined controls on input, process and output. The complement of the possible paths, from the first input to the final output, describes the service life-cycle in an organisation.
When the paths that a service can take are visible, accessible and widely known, many more personnel, especially those outside IS/IT are enabled to participate, and this popular participation is key to successful alignment with the business.  Organisations need to understand the fundamentals of services and their lifecycle at an early stage of SOA adoption, and certainly before committing to service management tools. Purchasing tools for service management without the architectural vision is likely to result in a wrong choice of tools or considerable difficulty in realising expectations from the features provided by the tools.

This is an “insight” post; it aims to stimulate discussion around the subject it discusses; these articles may appear prescriptive and perhaps dogmatic, but the objective really is for debate that leads to reusable knowledge and that is accessible to the wider community of software engineers in the area of focus.

This article suggests that there are some concepts that can be interwoven to give a better understanding of service, service life-cycle, service management, and how these all inter-relate. The underlying idea is this:

  • That the management of SOA services (life-cycle) involves certain stages
  • That every stage has some input(s), processing, and output(s)
  • That the input, processing, and output involves some personnel (human action)
  • That the personnel operate in an official capacity (role), and require certain privileges
  • That the privileges enable the personnel to trigger/effect certain actions
  • That the actions alter the state of a service, along the axis of its life-cycle
  • That the enablement of all the above constitutes a kind of service management

Given these generics for a service life-cycle, it is possible to determine the interactions that can be expected in a functioning service management system. It is important to give a brief introduction of the concepts involved, and then expand on their inter-relationships.

A Stage identifies high-level (composite) states that the Services in a repository pass through. Specifically, a Stage is a composite of multiple Artefact States, as well as the range of States of those Artefacts.  A State identifies the attribute value(s) of a specific Artefact at a point in time.
Examples ::= {Conceptualise, Evaluate, Design, Develop, Use, Retire}** (STAGE)
Examples ::= {active, inactive, visible, invisible, enabled, disabled} (STATE)

An Artefact is anything that has attributes/properties that are managed in the repository.
Examples ::= {Stage, Role, Service, Operation, Fragment, Document, Link, Communication (email, sms)}

A Role encapsulates responsibilities, tasks, or outcomes attached to a generic actor within the repository.
Examples ::= {Registrar, Reader, Business Analyst, Architect, Process Owner, Developer, Support}**

Privilege Matrix
Privilege Matrix

A Privilege is leverage or permission given to a Role to access or change the state of one or more Artefacts, a Privilege is really a composite that has three dimensions (Action + Artefact + State) since the Privilege must enable a Role to do something with an Artefact when at a particular State.
Examples ::= {Propose Service, Approve Service, Create Operation, Edit Fragment, Close Stage}

An Action is access or change to the state of an Artefact by a Role. An Action is the exercise of a Privilege by a Role.
Examples ::= {Read Service, Delete Operation, Approve Design}

An Event is the incidence of an Action, it is useful to differentiate both concepts though, because while the Action is proactive, the Event is reactive, the former is related to a Role whereas the latter is significant mostly for the system.
Examples ::= {Before Stage, After Stage, On Approve Operation, After Service Delete} (these are generic examples)

These concepts could be further refined/decomposed, depending on organisation size and experience, but this suffices for an illustration.
It is useful to expand on Event briefly and to define three generic Events that relate to the governance/control of the interaction between the main concepts in a service management system. These are: before-stage, during-stage, after-stage.


For each Stage in the life-cycle, there will be an Event that identifies the State of the service before, during, and after the Stage. Usually, the after-stage Event of one (n) Stage will be the same as the before-stage Event of the next (n+1) Stage.  These events are important gateways for governance as they provide useful points for checks and changes on Artefacts and Privileges. The checks are done to ensure that state changes are valid, and that the Service is in a consistent state and it can transition to the next state without complications.
  • Before a Stage is entered/activated, it is important to check that the conditions for activation have been met in the system. Each Stage will require some input ($ARTEFACTs); before the Stage is activated, the required input(s) must present, and valid.
  • During the Stage, all Privileges needed by Roles should be enabled, so that the Stage can complete. When all pre-conditions are passed and a Stage is active, metadata should be updated to enable Privileges for the actors that manage the Stage. Artefacts required by Role(s) should be enabled and made visible.
  • After a State, Artefact States must be updated appropriately, Roles reverted, and any necessary communication effected. Metadata relating to the previous Stage should be updated, for example, certain Artefacts may need to be disabled or made invisible. This could also be a good time to Communicate the State transition for any review and to inform Role(s) involved in the next Stage.

It is important that the service management system manages the changes triggered by Events so that users do not shoulder the responsibility.

Event Relationships
Event Relationships
The Stage is the skeleton upon which everything else hangs; the example Stages above are simple but should be sufficient for most SMEs. For larger or more complex organisations, the Stages could be further refined by one or two levels to take in all the tasks and personnel involved in Service management.  It is important to say that even though the Stages are quite static, the path of services through the life-cycle will differ considerably; services may fail at any stage, be regressed, or even skip one or more Stages. The design must allow and support this.

For very SMEs it may be enough to limit the life-cycle design to Stages and Roles only. This is recommended where services are few, the organisation is small, and the processing and governance are manual.

Dimensions of a Stage
Dimensions of a Stage
Stage=Propose; Role=BA, Artefact=Service; Action=CreateService; Privilege=SubmitService; Event=AfterPropose
It is important to note that transition from one Stage to another may not always be automatic, and an Event may trigger a communication, which results in an Action, before the transition can be completed. So the horizontal relationship between Stages needs to be complimented with vertical relationships with Events and Privileges. It becomes clear that the design of the Stages there is a need to maintain a matrix that document the relationship between a Stage and the Events and Privileges active in that Stage.


Another set of metadata relates to the Artefacts used/produced in a Stage. Each Stage will require different Artefacts, and while it may sound like a good idea to combine this into the matrix mentioned above, this may not be optimal. The granularity at which Artefacts occur may be much finer than that for Stages, Events, Privileges. For example, an Event may be related to more than one Artefact, just as a Privilege may cover more than one type or genre of Artefact. All the matrices could be crafted in a spreadsheet with multiple dimensions, or visualised using diagrams that show the dimensions involved.


A useful summary of what is being presented here it this: Stages of the life-cycle show the possible transitions paths for a Service; each Stage will need some input and should have some output; the inputs and outputs should be checked before and after a stage, and personnel should be limited in what they can do to a Service at different Stages of the life-cycle. One thing that is often missed by SOA governance tools is the visualisation of the life-cycle of services; this is unfortunate, since SOA aims to align IT/IS with the business, who happen to be the ones paying for IT/IS departments.  The absence of an intuitive web/application interface shrouds service life-cycle management, and SOA governance, in a cloud of mystery and false complication. But it also impedes the participation of non-IT personnel.


Visualisation of the state of services at points in time, as well as a simplified ontology of the services will go a long way in the accessibility of SOA to the business, but also make it a lot easier for IT/IS professionals to manage the service life-cycle.  Nevertheless, there is a lot that architects can do to prepare organisations for service management. Preparation is important; no tool can make up for a lack of vision and planning by an organisation. IT leadership should invest time in thinking and articulating the vision for services, and how the services will be communicated and managed across the organisation. A meta-design such as this is useful for that purpose.
A guide is presented below for using this meta-design in the preparation for services and their management:

  1. Define the Stages, Roles, and Artefacts – keep the definitions simple
  2. Add Actions, Privileges and Events if there is organisational capacity
  3. Prepare matrices to show the relationship between Stages, Roles, Artefacts, etc.
  4. Complete a walkthrough to show how some scenarios can be played, for example:
    # New Service Creation
    # Service Update
    # Service Retirement/Deletion
    # New Service Rejected
    # Service Regression from Production to Design
    # Stage transition

There is no single correct answer, neither does this article pretend to be the only valid approach. However, identifying and discussing these key concepts {Stage, Role, etc.} and their interrelationships will help to simplify the task and help an organisation to create an effective lifecycle model that is accessible and enables participation from all those in the organisation.

Oyewole, Olanrewaju J (Mr.)
Internet Technologies Ltd
+44 [0] 793 920 3120


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