BizTalk Server and SOA Software Together, Part IV

[Series Links: Part I / Part II / Part III / Part IV]

In the first three parts of this series, I’ve shown you how SOA Software enables “last mile” web service management and configuration. Now, let’s focus on HOW you call a service that is managed by SOA Software Service Manager. If you add a policy to a service which requires specific authorization headers, then clearly you expect the service caller to add those headers. However, a developer probably doesn’t want to get bogged down in adding SAML tokens or applying digital signatures.

SOA Software provides a Gateway Service which sits in between the client and service endpoint. A .NET/Java SDK is provided for clients to interact with this Gateway Service. Using the SDK, developers can work with an API that provides support for:

  • SOA Software Service Manager security
    • Encryption / decryption, signing / verifying, compression / decompression, credentials
  • WS-Encryption / WS-Decryption
  • Transport neutrality (choose HTTP, HTTPS, JMS)
  • Dynamic binding (based on UDDI)
  • Endpoint auto-configuration

So, by using functions in a rich SDK API, the developer can avoid building complexity and guesswork into the construction of a service message managed by a robust policy. Now, let’s make it even easier. The last option in my list above (“Endpoint auto-configuration”) means that instead of asking the service caller to know how to pack up the service payload, do it for them.

Within the SOA Software Service Manager you can set up a friendly identifier for the web service. Then, from client code, you can use the Gateway SDK to lookup all the policy information for a given service, and build up the message accordingly. That is, the developer writes 1 line of code to apply all the necessary policy bindings. The Gateway service then receives this command (auto-configuration) from the client, and packs up the message with a format required by the policy before forwarding the service call on to the destination. Cool!

Now if I call a SOA Software managed web service (which has an “authentication” component in its policy) from BizTalk using the standard SOAP adapter (with an orchestration feeding it), I get the following error:
Error details: SoapHeaderException: An error has occurred authenticating based on Credentials

Great! So how do we get around this? My first thought was a pipeline component which would call the Gateway SDK code. I tried this, but it failed. The Gateway SDK code needs to be on the same calling thread as the actual service call. So, I needed to move this code as close to the adapter as possible. Thanks to the stud support folks at SOA Software, they suggested doing a SOAP send port with a proxy class (versus using the default “Orchestration web port” settings). So, I auto-generated a proxy class using wsdl.exe, and added the “gateway bridge” code to the corresponding web method.

My send port then looked like this …

I also had to change the send port’s URL to point to the Gateway service URL. So now, no part of my project points to the ACTUAL web service. Rather, I point to the Gateway service which adds all the necessary policy code before forwarding traffic to the real web service endpoint. Making these changes resulted in BizTalk working perfectly. No custom adapters, no need to unnecessary interject orchestration and fairly simple maintenance.

Now, one concern I had was that using this architecture, my service caller (e.g. BizTalk) forwards a web service call to another box hosting the Gateway service, which then forwards the message on to the final service endpoint. Because service policy information is applied by the Gateway service, I can be confident that no one can sniff or tamper with messages leaving the Gateway machine. However, what about that call from my client TO the Gateway? Do I now have to do some HTTPS transmission JUST to get the Gateway?

Thankfully, the SOA Software folks thought of this. A parameter in the API call to the Gateway actually enables the payload to be fully encrypted. How do I test this? I’m using the great tools from PocketSOAP. You could use TCPTrace, but I actually like ProxyTrace more since the BizTalk setup is trivial. Using ProxyTrace, I can see the actual message being sent by the BizTalk SOAP adapter.

After you start ProxyTrace (and tell it which port to listen on), you simply change your SOAP adapter (or HTTP adapter) “Proxy” tab like so:

Once I call my service, I can now see the raw payload sent it, and the raw data returned. As you can see below, my message to the Gateway is in clear text (the password has been automatically hashed), and no funky policy headers have been applied yet.

If I rebuild my SOAP proxy class (which contains the Gateway SDK code) to have the “encryptMessage” set to “true”, then my transmission out of the BizTalk box looks like this:

I love that. Very simple, quite effective. If I check the recorded message in the SOA Software Service Manager portal site, I can see that after the Gateway processes the message, all the required policy elements have been added.

Takeaway: To attach management and policy functionality to a service does NOT require changing anything in the service itself. No changing configuration files, code, etc. To CALL a service that is managed by SOA Software, you can use either the Java or .NET Gateway SDK to abstract the actual complexity required to attach relevant policy data.

Great stuff. These folks are working on cutting-edge things, and I’m constantly surprised at the overall thoughtfulness and completeness of their platform. Highly recommended.

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Author: Richard Seroter

Richard Seroter is Director of Developer Relations and Outbound Product Management at Google Cloud. He’s also an instructor at Pluralsight, a frequent public speaker, the author of multiple books on software design and development, and a former editor plus former 12-time Microsoft MVP for cloud. As Director of Developer Relations and Outbound Product Management, Richard leads an organization of Google Cloud developer advocates, engineers, platform builders, and outbound product managers that help customers find success in their cloud journey. Richard maintains a regularly updated blog on topics of architecture and solution design and can be found on Twitter as @rseroter.

5 thoughts

  1. I really enjoyed reading use of SOA for Web Services Management. We use Amber Point as our web services management tool. I have been reading your Blog for many years and I want to thank you for all the great posts you make on your blog.

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