When I am describing complex SOA or Web Service architectures, environments, and scenarios to clients, I often use the term “SOA Actors” to generically refer to components of such environments in the abstract. I will often do the same on Thinkmiddleware.com posts. Here, I define what I mean by this phrase.
In a complex SOA environment, there are going to be numerous tiers of Service Providers and Service Consumers. Some of these will be within an organization; some will be external to an organization. Between these Service Consumers, there could be an ESB or an XML Gateway-in large environments, there will probably be both.
All of these can be considered actors in a SOA ecosystem:
On top of the ESB/XML Gateway infrastructure, there might be a Rules Engine, advanced support for Service Orchestration (WS-BPEL), Persistence Layer that provides reliable queuing and Publish/Subscribe functionality. In the security realm, there could be LDAP servers, Security Token Servers(STS), and many others that could all be considers Actors in this system. When we are including systems like these in the definition of SOA Actors, I will explicitly call it out.
The rest of the time, you can assume that I’m referring to the four mentioned above.