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Does Desktop Virtualization Need Desktop SOA?

Part of the rationale for Web services has always been that they
can tunnel through firewalls, linking networks that are otherwise
securely separated. Virtualization puts up similar barriers between
applications within a single machine, so will crossing them require
similar technology?

Startup OpenSpan says that it will. This week, it launched what it calls SOA Desktop Edition,
software that the company claims can give almost any Windows
application a full Web services API. OpenSpan promotes its product as
the "the last mile of SOA", but that slogan's already taken
(by several rich Internet application companies, on the basis that
Ajax works better if browser-based apps link into a full SOA
infrastructure on the back end.) A more accurate description would be
a scaled-down SOA, as for it to be useful each PC would end up
hosting (and consuming) multiple Web services.

So why run Web services on the desktop? According to OpenSpan, the
same reason that you'd run them on  a server – namely, for
streamlined application integration and data sharing. SOA Desktop
Edition grew out of a previous product called Integrator, which
tracked how every application accesses Windows' APIs and let
developers intercept API calls while building mashups. For example,
one app's menus can be made available through another, or complex
operations that otherwise involved multiple copy and pasting
operations can be automated.

Like the Windows API itself, Integrator was designed to mix apps
installed on the same machine. Converting desktop Windows apps to Web
services makes them accessible anywhere, potentially letting users on
one PC automatically access APIs on another. It also means that
services from Windows apps can be orchestrated into new
composite apps using standard SOA tools from vendors like IBM and
BEA, or combined with components based on Java.

Not everyone will think exposing desktop apps as Web services is a great idea. Security-conscious users may be put off by
Web services' original firewall-tunneling feature – something
useful in closely monitored and locked-down server apps, but perhaps
much riskier than when let loose on ordinary PCs. That's why
OpenSpan's vision doesn't involve desktop Web services accessed by
users across the Internet, or even predominately by other machines
within the LAN. It foresees the main consumers of desktop Web
services being other VMs running within the same PC, accessing
functionality that right now is available through standards Windows
APIs – everything from file load and save to composite

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