Sunday, March 27, 2005

Service-Oriented Computing (SOC) and Agent-Based Engineering (SOCABE)

There will be a workshop entitled "Service-Oriented Computing (SOC) and Agent-Based Engineering (SOCABE)" at the upcoming Conference on Autonomous Agents & Multi-Agent Systems (AAMAS'2005). As the workshop announcement puts it:
Service-Oriented Computing (SOC) is a newly emerging paradigm for distributed computing and e-business processing that utilizes services as fundamental elements to enable building agile networks of collaborating business applications distributed within and across organizational boundaries. Services are self-contained, platform-independent computational elements that can be described, published, discovered, orchestrated and deployed for the purpose of developing distributed applications across networks, including the Internet. Service-based approaches include Web services, Semantic Web services, and Grid services.

While a service need not fulfill all characteristics of a strong definition of agency, the SOC approach to building complex software systems bears many similarities to the development of agent-based systems. In particular, large systems are assembled from distributed heterogeneous software components providing specialized services and communicating using agreed-upon
protocols. Similarly to certain multi-agent engineering paradigms, the design process of such systems focuses on the declarative characterization of the agents' capabilities and on a message-based paradigm of interoperation. Also similarly to multi-agent systems, management of the service provision processes is dynamic and distributed, and takes into account the requirements both at the individual services and system levels of the composed application. It also needs to be adaptive in response to the changing requirements, services and exceptions
in the dynamic Web and Grid environments.

The area of Service Oriented Computing offers much of real interest to the Multi Agent System community, including similarities in system architectures and provision processes, powerful tools, and the focus on issues such as quality of service, security and reliability. Similarly, techniques developed in the MAS research community promise to have a strong impact on this fast growing technology.

Although "services" certainly is a popular marketing buzzword these days, and software agents will undoubtedly need to interact with so-called "services", the real future of both software agents and "services" is to implement the services themselves using distributed software agent technology, what I call an "agents everywhere" strategy.

The problem with the current vision of services is that they are for the most part simply repackaged mainframe or client-server applications, with all the same associated scalability, reliability, and security concerns. But, it is the "state of the art" at this junction, so we have to learn to live with it, for a while longer.

-- Jack Krupansky


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