SOA gains traction in enterprise market

A recent report from Forrester Research showed Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) has arrived and that companies should consider how SOA could help their business, because if they don’t, their competitors will.

Across North America, the survey indicated strong adoption for SOA in the enterprise, with more than half of enterprise buyers (defined as organizations with 1,000 or more employees) saying they planned to adopt SOA by the end of 2006; 29 per cent were already using SOA.

Of the organizations already using SOA, 45 per cent said they had an enterprise-level strategy for it. Those organizations were also generally satisfied with their SOA deployments: 69 per cent planned to increase their use of SOA, while just one per cent planned to reduce it.

The study also found that organizations running IBM mainframe and Java were more likely to implement SOA than shops running on the Microsoft .Net platform, at 73 and 67 per cent versus 57 per cent adoption, respectively.

The study’s author, Forrester analyst Randy Heffner, said people in the Java and mainframe worlds are more likely to be dealing with large, enterprise-scale environments, managing more complicated architectures with larger application portfolios and more legacy applications.

Because of those environments, they’ve gravitated more toward Java and mainframes and so they’re more likely to be thinking about the kind of architectural issues that SOA can address.

“As a community, they’ve had to deal with architecture issues on a larger scale for longer, so they’re more likely to see the move to advanced architecture sooner,” said Heffner.

Looking at the SOA vendor community, Heffner said it is hard to define the industry leaders, but he said IBM has a broad set of SOA offerings, tools and consulting services.

BEA, he added, has made some interesting product line characteristics, and both Oracle and Sun are making heavy investments.

He noted that Microsoft’s SOA investments tend to be at a lower level in terms of the breadth of architectural vision, designed more with the mass market in mind than the enterprise. Heffner added that there are also a number of interesting pure-play startup companies making SOA plays, such as Systinet in the registry space,

“The challenge for buyers is to balance and weave their way through what’s offered by the large players and the startup players, and what’s offered by the existing infrastructure they already have,” said Heffner. Customers should start small with proof of concept project implementations, building momentum from there, he said.

In the Canadian market, Holly Tiessen, IBM Canada’s SOA sales executive, said her firm is seeing more and more organizations moving from the SOA education phase to their first project.

“We’ve been working with some clients on their SOA journey that will last for a number of years still but those tend to be the largest organizations in Canada, like the banks and telcos,” said Tiessen. “When you come down to the next layer of organizations, they’re the ones really starting to move forward with SOA.”

A major market that IBM sees is companies that bought ERP systems and are looking at SOA as a next step. Tiessen points to a company like Montreal-based aerospace firm Bombardier, which was challenged to integrate its ERP applications with its legacy applications.

“They were able to drive 50 per cent of the cost of their application development through their SOA initiative and they’re looking at a 50 per cent decrease in application maintenance going forward,” said Tiessen.

Paul Patrick, vice-president and chief architect for AquaLogic at BEA, said his company has seen financial institutions as the first big movers on SOA. He said companies, in general, aren’t adopting SOA for technology reasons, but are looking at it from a business agility standpoint.

Patrick also said companies are approaching SOA very pragmatically, building out SOA on a project-by-project basis. “They’re taking a more holistic approach than they have in the past,” said Patrick.

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