ZapThink Forum – SOA factory analogy

It’s been a week now since I was on the panel at the ZapThink Forum in New York. (I am still working on the book, although we did get the manuscript into the reviewer process.)
I stayed overnight at the New Yorker Hotel, where the conference was held. It’s a weird old place between rennovations. But with character. It was across the street diagonally from Madison Square Garden and Penn Station, so this was doubly wierd for someone flying in from Boston during the DNC, ending up where the RNC would be in a month’s time.
The panel discussion was on ROI for SOA. We had a good mix of software vendors and end users on the panel. The first question was how to think about the ROI.
I like to compare the investment in SOA to a factory. A manufacturing company needs to set up an infrastructure for mass production, including an assembly line, physical plant, architecture, design, and so on.
The software business is pretty much a craft business today, relying on the skills of individuals to create programs and map business requirements to technology. Assembling applications is not really a scientific exercise with predictable results, as all of us know who’ve been through the seemingly endless build and test cycles to ship a product, or upgrade a production application.
While an SOA may not be the ultimate answer, it does provide an infrastructure and approach to developing applications that pays off over time. The first service may be relatively expensive to build, but the hundredth will be relatively much cheaper, and so on. And once a library of resuable services is available for common functions such as customer lookup, credit card authorization, and shipping an order, new applications can be assembled much more quickly and easily.

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