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).

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4 responses to “Business Value of SOA

  1. Jim Alateras

    I definitely share your perspective. Google, Amazon and eBay have already deployed highly distributed, scalable and available enterprise applications using the WWW. The fact that the early majority haven’t come on board yet seems to indicate that we are in the innovators/early adopters phase of the technology adoption lifecycle for such applications. There seems to be a perception that the web infrastructure, particularly security and management, is not ready to accommodate large scale, mission critical enterprise applications. The plethora of WS-* specifications, the debate on architectural styles, the lack of patterns and idioms, the risk averse/skeptical executives and CIOs, the shortage of ROI data points are all impacting the rate of adoption.

  2. For me the most singular aspect of the WWWW, and from it Web Services, is that fact that after so many years of IT it was finally possible for any person to look up anything using any software on any platform capable of processing HTML in its most rudimentary form (think of Lynx) and, not only that, to be in a position, thanks to search engines, to actually go and find things on the WWW.
    So, with Web Services being the “browser for software”, whether they are called Fred, Joe or Sally is going to make no difference. In fact, most people talk about the “Internet” when they really mean the “Web”.
    What’s the whole point of this? Designing using SOA principles is not, I think, really that new. There has been software, and it is still around, that actually forced one to design in a service-oriented way, an example of this is HP’s ACMS, a TP monitor, many years old now but still very much in the forefront in terms of concepts and design.
    Never before in computing has there been something as simple, yet powerful, as Web Services, thus enabling architects and developers to talk with those desiring “services”, whereby “those” are often referred to as “business” people, a misnomer in my mind as software (through Web Services) has, in the case of Web Services, finally reached the stage where “people” desiring a service has, or should, become the operative word.

  3. Thinking about adaptive enterprises, SOA

    Thinking about adaptive enterprises, SOA and people. In the reverse order!

  4. Douglass Turner

    This is perhaps a bit off topic but I think it is very relevant to SOA efforts going forward. From my research of SOA one glaring ommission from the literature is any serious discussion of the implications for the kinds of applications implied by this architecture.
    One can easily conclude that we simply slap a browser on the explosed services and we are done. I believe this is a mistaken attitude.
    I believe an entirely new class of user interactions (and associated, highly graphical, applications) suddenly become possible. These apps aren’t straight-jacketed into the restrictive lock-step page flipping metaphor of the browser.
    For a number of years my company (Visual i|o at http::/www.visual-io.com) has had great success building this new class of application and we great the arrival of SOA with a hearty cheer.
    I’m very interested in hearing your thoughts regarding this matter.
    Cheers,
    Douglass Turner
    Vice President of Technology
    Visual i|o