Six stages to SOA evolution in the enterprise

As the economic downturn causes IT budgets to get tightened, open source can bring value to a service-oriented architecture deployment, and in fact, open source is thriving in these current times of increased budget scrutiny, said a RedHat Inc. executive.

During a recent Webinar, Pierre Fricke, director of product line management for JBoss, said once an organization gets passed the “initial shockwave of layoffs and budget cuts,” they realize spending money on heavy, expensive services oriented architecture technology from proprietary vendors is not an option.

While open source has become an easier sell, Fricke said it’s a good approach for IT managers to point to the countless instances of successful deployments across enterprises. And, by virtue of it being open source, he said, developers can avoid “going through hurdles” by taking advantage of code available in communities like to perform testing and proof of concepts, an approach, he said, that “can make tried and true believers.”

In fact, Fricke said he observed some trends in 2008 around SOA — the typical small deployments and proof-of-concepts have been moved past, components are increasingly re-used as the library of services builds up, and the architecture has become easier to scale as workloads rise.

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While those positive trends exist, Fricke said cost remains an inhibitor to SOA deployment and that more can be done to drive down those costs. Red Hat’s SOA strategy, he said is to provide “simple, open and affordable” SOA through a flexible platform.

But as enterprises deploy open source SOA with the end goal of reaping agility through improved business processes, Fricke said proper governance of the architecture – ensuring control over the services that render value to the business – becomes an opportunity to further improve the ROI and reduce risk.

Fricke cited a Red Hat customer, a passenger railway company with 100,000 daily passengers and $1 billion in revenue, that deployed JBoss applications server, reaping 700 per cent performance gain. Following that, ticket sales were integrated with eBay auctions to improve utilization of trains. “One of the beauties of SOA is it’s not a static deployment. It can be expanded to solve other business problems,” said Fricke, while stressing that as SOA deployment expands across an organization, governance becomes increasingly important.

Ed Horst, vice-president of product strategy with Oakland, Calif.-based SOA consultancy and Red Hat partner AmberPoint Inc., agreed that proper governance of SOA benefits several parties across the organization. The business units get improved visibility into business processes; operations get real-time management of systems so to lessen risk of running applications in a composite fashion; and system architects get feedback on the system performance.

Fricke described a six-stage evolution that occurs in enterprises deploying SOA:

1. First, business process owners demand improved processes.

2. The organization then must look at how the IT assets support the execution of those business processes.

3. Once done, IT must be scrutinized for bottlenecks and other issues, like determining which services should be used.

4. The organization identifies where and how SOA services can best be deployed.

5. When multiple services have been deployed, the organization must manage this using an enterprise service bus, thereby reaping agility.

6. Look at composing processes, composite applications and automating business processes.

There’s been ample activity with deployment of enterprise service buses in the past several years, said Fricke. And, while much of this still tends to be project-driven at this stage of the game, he said increasingly more business processes are taking top-down “holistic views”.

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