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SOA - dead or alive?
Can it deliver on its promises?
In the UK, we've seen the a different approach. Organisations have got caught up with the overall strategic message of SOA, and see it as being a forklift upgrade of the whole infrastructure. The business still couches its needs in process terms, but IT wants to create a corporate SOA environment, based around notions of elegance in development, code reuse and so on.
This approach constrains the options for the lines of business. Whereas a stand-alone project would cost an amount based on solving just the one problem, the first strategic SOA project within an organisation has to pay for all the underpinnings for the SOA, which may be an order of magnitude higher.
Without high-level buy in from the business itself as to how this new, strategic SOA project should be funded, the line of business is forced to go for a lower cost solution, which in many cases will be based around using standard off-the-shelf applications or through continuing existing methods of solution development.
This second approach therefore stops any real progression towards true SOA - existing practices are maintained, and the best intentions of the IT department to introduce the SOA concept just cannot take root.
Many of the vendors Quocirca has been talking to have now recognised this problem, and are beginning to review how they message SOA into those businesses where SOA has not been well received, or where SOA concepts are struggling to get off the ground. IBM, at its Impact 2007 user conference held in Orlando, detailed its new approach of messaging SOA concepts into the business as point solutions based around solving business issues.
BEA, at its latest analyst conference, demonstrated moves to approach the lines of business markets from a strongly business process viewpoint. TIBCO, through its experience with Staffware, has been using business process messages for some time. Even Oracle, and to a lesser extent SAP, are adapting their SOA messages to be more business focused.
Hopefully, this new messaging will make understanding at the IT and business level more complete. However, the main key for those companies looking towards SOA as a silver bullet for their business is to regard SOA as a journey, not as a single solution. By all means create a vision of where you want to end up on the journey, but don't let this vision cloud the short term view on how to deal with immediate business needs. Regard each new business issue firstly in isolation, looking at how you should solve this, utilising SOA approaches to this one problem. Then, look at how this fits with the longer term vision, and ensure that the functionality being introduced does not take you away from this vision.
As new projects come through, you will find that you already have pockets of functionality within other areas of the infrastructure; these can then be included in to the new project, making best usage of functional reuse. After a few projects, you will find that SOA has spread across the organisation, beginning to make the non-SOA areas the islands of capability, rather than the SOA areas.
This approach makes fast, tactical, solutions converge towards the longer-term strategic needs - and can make it that SOA can still provide on the promise we all hoped for.
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