Daily Archives: March 14, 2005

Business Value of SOA

Last week I had the honor of being the invited speaker to a large corporation’s quarterly architecture board meeting, sponsored by the CIO.
I was asked to provide some perspective on why SOA is so important for business.
The trends toward service orientation and service oriented architecture are motivated largely because of their promises to solve important IT problems, such as developer productivity, sharing data across functions and organizations, and streamlining processes and procedures.
Because the software industry is typically so full of hype and exaggeration, I often get a comment along the lines of “well, Web services and SOA are just the latest fad – in another five or ten years something else will come along to replace them.”
To me this is like saying the World Wide Web – from which Web services gets half its name – is going to go away any day now since it was the latest fad ten years ago. I see URLs all over the place, on TV ads, billboards, magazine ads, and even on products such as shower heads, tools, and building supplies.
If Web services can fulfill their promise, and bring Web-levels of interoperability and platform transparency to the IT environment, and if companies invest in an SOA based upon them, they will not go away. They will become as permanent a part of IT infrastructure as the Web is of publishing and consumer culture.
What threatens this promise has nothing to do with technology, but rather with intellectual property. The success of an SOA based on Web services depends upon freely available standards, unencumbered by patent claims and licensing fees. As I think I have mentioned before, Tim Berners-Lee did not seek patents for the inventions that created the Web.
Over time the applications based on the SOA may change, but once firmly established the SOA will be a key part of all future IT solutions, since it enables the production of new applications with greater effeciency (i.e. higher reuse) and predictability (i.e. standard interfaces to features and functions).