Despite SOAP and SOA inroads, the vaunted File Transfer Protocol (FTP) continues to flourish in organizations that - not surprisingly – need to transfer files. Finance and banking both represent FTP bastions – although both sectors are also on their way to becoming SOA strongholds of sorts.
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Bringing FTP - originated in the 1970s - under the general umbrella of governance is an eventual goal for many of these companies. Forum Systems, a Crosscheck Networks' subsidiary, seeks to support such efforts with a recent update to the Forum Sentry Gateway.
The latest version of the gateway offers content-level security for structured and unstructured data for documents of unlimited size using the OpenPGP standard, while also enabling message transfers over a variety of secured and unsecured transport protocols. Moreover, the software allows organizations to plan migrations from batch FTP processing to SOAP with Attachments (SwA)(MIME, DIME, MTOM), while using existing centralized governance policies across both legacy and modern message formats.
"FTP is the 'lowest common denominator' protocol in most corporations. It's a ubiquitous protocol for moving information between applications and corporations," according to Mamoon Yunus, president and CEO of Crosscheck.
"Where central integration strategies and architectures are not available, FTP is a known, simple, light and rapid way for application integration. FTP provides a path for application integration into legacy systems that otherwise may not be accessible via modern protocols such as HTTP and JMS," Yunus told SearchSOA.com in an e-mail interview. The benefits of workhorse FTP include simple initial setup for application integration and aptness for batch processing.
Despite its age, Managed File Transfer (MFT) – a catch-all phrase covering a variety of FTP related file transfer technologies - can readily adapt to SOA principles, according to Yunus.
Paths to the future for FTP, SOA governance
As trading partners' interrelated systems evolve, the partners "ask for both greater security and greater flexibility in application integration," said Yunus. "Customers ask MFT vendors for deeper data inspection, greater support for file transfers over newer protocols and channels and central management policies across integration channels."
The path to the future may vary according to size of company, he said.
"Large companies with many trading partners (and a mix of real-time and batch processing requirements) should move to a centralized SOA which manages both old (FTP) and new (Web services, HTTPS, etc.) data movement paradigms for greater compliance, security, reliability and overall control," said Yunus.
Meanwhile, smaller companies with a handful of trading partners that find batch processing acceptable "can continue to choose point MFT solutions," he said, while noting "they should still practice basic SOA principles for greater re-use, maintainability, monitoring and security."
Monitoring and security issues particularly are bringing wider swaths of middleware into the SOA purview. Yunus' statements echo recent writings of Gartner Research analysts Thomas Skybakmoen and Paolo Malinverno who suggest an organization's SOA center of excellence may come to provide one centralized governance service for file transfer.