The services-oriented architecture moniker might be “sullied” by industry hype, high-profile failures and misdirection, but SOA is certainly not dead, said one analyst.
There continues to be strong industry, vendor and enterprise support for SOA “whether it’s branded as SOA or otherwise,” said Jayanth Angl, senior research analyst with London, Ont.-based Info-Tech Research Group Ltd.
The industry, he said, has been consistent in moving towards a view of interoperable services, and “that’s really what it’s all about, is services and I don’t think that’s changed.” Other approaches have emerged like software-as-a-service, cloud computing and mashups that all align with this services-based mindset that is replacing the traditional application delivery approach, said Angl. “But, it remains to be seen what the next buzzword is.”
The fact that SOA is dead was proclaimed earlier this year by Midvale, Utah-based Burton Group analyst Anne Thomas Manes who wrote on her blog that SOA, thought to save IT, actually turned into a great failed experiment. “It’s time to accept reality. SOA fatigue has turned into SOA disillusionment,” she wrote. “Business people no longer believe that SOA will deliver spectacular benefits.”
According to Info-Tech Research, while mature SOA implementations today are not numerous, there are a growing number of enterprises making progress and reaping benefits. The research firm recently released a report entitled Five Key SOA Themes from the Field based on ongoing conversations with enterprise early adopters of SOA. Among the findings – besides the fact that SOA implementations are alive and well – were five key SOA themes amassed from interviews with IT leaders directly involved in their company’s SOA initiatives.
1.IT leaders must see SOA as a business opportunity: Other IT projects might be about providing efficiency in IT but “this essentially is changing how a business operates,” said Angl. The perception of leadership will determine whether an SOA implementation will reap substantial progress and find success, he said.
2.External guidance is invaluable: Management isn’t the only group that could benefit from a shift in mindset, said Angl. Internal developers, too, have been used to being insulated from the business and its immediate and future needs, but a better understanding of key business processes is vital if services are to be defined, he said. While many of the enterprises studied have internal development teams that understand the concept of re-using services, Angl said it is a good idea that they brought in external expertise in SOA to render “better visibility in to some of the pitfalls.”
3.Don’t make buying software the focus of an SOA initiative: There are countless SOA vendors pitching their software platforms, but it can be difficult to justify a purchase if the requirements are not first defined, said Angl. The last thing a company wants is to have bought a tool that doesn’t align with the needs of the initiative. The initial modeling process can be helped along by creating a service catalog in the form of a basic spreadsheet or wiki, said Angl. “A lot of ground work that has to be laid here.”
4.Avoid the big bang approach to SOA: It’s not realistic to think that the benefits of an SOA implementation will be reaped immediately, said Angl, because communicating and effecting change can take time. He suggests starting with a project where sharing a service, for instance, will reduce duplication of data entry into two different applications. “Some of the baby steps will certainly lead to the bigger changes required later on,” he said.
5.Prioritize service quality over quantity: Creating and managing new services is no trivial task, said Angl, and requires the support of an appropriate process. It’s best to focus on “truly re-usable services that can be leveraged in a straightforward fashion,” he said, while ensuring that design principles are followed, business rules are consistently applied, and regulatory requirements are met.
Angl said it can take anywhere from three to five years to see an SOA implementation reach maturity, but even then, the initiative will be an ongoing one. For that reason, it can’t be termed a project, he said, rather it’s a service orientation designed to change how a business approaches new initiatives.