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SOA : More Action Ahead

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Writing about the potential for services-oriented architecture (SOA), I pointed out that SOA as an architecture of services is based on the premise that software components operate as modular components (building blocks) of a larger, immediately executing transaction (unit of work). Services are designed to perform reusable partial processes on behalf of a bigger transaction.

SOA is attractive because it enables reuse of logic and data in multiple contexts. At a fundamental level, the radical shift to SOA calls for a different mindset – a dramatically different one at that. The adoption of SOA shall signify itself to be an important development in the IT world. Software will be described as a portfolio of capabilities and possibilities instead of modularized applications. Data models will be standard-based and externalized to enable interworking between services, and data will be considered to be like any other form of “digital content” ever ready for exchange and transformation between systems.

I also higlighted the view that the actual goal of SOA isn’t interoperability; if that is all you want then sprinkle a few Web Service interfaces on your existing design and you will have opened up your application to all platforms – but you will not necessarily have benefited from SOA.

John Hagel gave a new perspective about SOA. Commenting on this perspective, I wrote that lasting value for business shall come out of enabling entirely new sets of business models – those that can be configured on the fly ( for example, integrating all eBay related operators in multiple ways), enabling lean, mean, and efficient best in class processes with well designed performance measures, and also by enhancing the ability of the business enterprise in leveraging emerging technologies like grid computing, applistructures, powerful convergence technologies – many of the solutions today are aligned to delivering solutions in the conventional way but these may change.

In the future, businesses may be measured by how quickly their models of operationand processes can be configured and reconfigured. SOA architecture needs to provide for these dynamic builds and rebuilds. For now though, SOA is a recognizable and mostly virtual plumbing exercise. Most likely, vendors will draw their strategy from the experience of customers, and will adjust accordingly. Not to overlook the fact that though the vendor community is trying hard to improve their SOA maturity, evolving standards and entrenched infrastructure mean more pilots and lab environments and more and more scope for innovations as adoption tends to improve. The SOA space is also getting consolidated as can be seen here and here.

Robin Bloor writes that 2006 will probably be the year that SOA “goes mainstream”. The current noise around it indicates as much and gives a quick update of vendor readiness in this spaceand he shares his quick assessment of the maturity levels of the leading vendors operating in this space.

  • IBM clearly knows where most of the SOA bodies are buried and it is taking it seriously. Indeed it can claim to be one of the current leaders in the game and has a comprehensive set of capabilities, both on the software side and the consultancy side.
  • HP has capabilities.
  • SAP has a convincing position.
  • Sun Microsystems entered the market seriously when it acquired SeeBeyond and remains a serious player.
  • JBOSS and BEA have skin in the game and so does CA—as a late joiner.
  • Oracle and Microsoft are clearly laggards.

I see relatively smaller players increasingly getting active here – BEA and TIBCO are clearly well geared and ready to rock in this space as well.

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  • Wylie

    The benefits of SOA are undoubtly great – once you get the momentum going. I would like to here from the audience about how much money actually needed to be spent to get the momentum going. That is to say, what does it cost to get the framework in place, and what was the starting costs of services needing to be migrated to this new architecture?