SOA – Service Oriented Architecture
The desire to make IT more flexible isn’t new; it’s been around as long as our industry. What’s different about SOA is it allows companies to leverage the assets they already have and more easily integrate new assets, applications and partners. Gartner predicts that 80 percent of customers will adopt SOA by 2012 with many large software vendors and other industry analysts endorsing it today. It’s unlikely that SOA will be the last great thought in the evolution toward a flexible IT infrastructure, but current market acceptance and the fact that it’s based on mature industry standards make SOA the safe bet moving forward.
What is SOA?
Essentially SOA is based on a concept called a service. In its most granular form, a service is an independent, reusable business task (e.g., checking a credit score or opening an account). Web services is the technology used to help deliver these services or business tasks. Service orientation is a way to integrate your business as linked services and the functions they provide (e.g., creating a new loan process using the services to check credit scores and opening an account combined with other services).
SOA is the IT architectural style used to support an SOA implementation. You can begin building your own SOA from scratch using some tools.
Why SOA Today?
The rapid reuse of existing assets and sharing of services and infrastructure across lines of business are critical to achieving business processes that can adjust to changing market conditions. An SOA is your key to making the IT department a catalyst for growth and innovation.
Flexibility in business has become equal in importance with operational efficiency. While the drivers of change manifest themselves differently in each industry, a common theme is emerging across all industries: those who adjust to change more quickly may gain a competitive advantage (see Table 1).
Studies from Gartner, IDC and leading business consultants all point to a common message: companies are spending too much money on integration and sustaining and running existing business capability versus innovation and creation of new capability.
Many companies want this to change. And they know this is likely possible with SOA. An SOA structures the functions delivered in large applications into reusable building blocks or services that can be used to enable your IT environment to potentially be more nimble, to respond rapidly to changing business conditions. Enterprises are using SOA as a way of increasing business flexibility, serving their customers better, leveraging existing IT investments and capturing new revenue streams. The market shifts; your business responds and may win with SOA.
SOA is different from many efforts of the past. In the same way that TCP/IP has allowed hardware platforms to communicate easily, Web services are linked dynamically and are based on mature industry standards allowing applications to easily work together. Because SOA is based on Web services, SOA services can be extensively reused and focused on business-level activities versus limited technical subtasks.
But perhaps the largest driving force behind SOA is market acceptance. Many major software vendors are providing software to build SOAs, and the analysts are all bullish. Unlike former architectures, SOA has overcome many obstacles by learning from the past and is now ready for prime time.