Adopting, designing, and governing SOA well

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SOA Best Practices Authors: Jason Bloomberg, Hollis Tibbetts, Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Lori MacVittie

Related Topics: Java EE Journal, SOA Best Practices Digest, Sustainable Investment, SOA & WOA Magazine

J2EE Journal: Article

Laying the Groundwork for SOA Success

SOA must support business needs

For a business to be sustainable today, it must be supported by a truly sustainable architecture. This type of architecture must have built-in agility and reusability. To be able to support the disparate end-to-end transaction components involved in converting leads to cash, this architecture must be sufficiently free form in its inter-business process communication. All businesses require this, whatever the business model. This openness in communication needs to permeate down through the layers of the organization so that reuse is standard - and considered a strength, rather than a lack of precision.

Imagine a business introducing a new product line. It not only builds an external marketing message, but also internal messaging to inform the underlying teams and business processes how to sell and deliver the new product, to whom, and for how much. No rebuilding of business departments or lines of business required. It's the same deal for those impacted by the credit crunch, where the only way to maintain revenue is to reduce operating cost.

This principle can also be used when organizations adopt service-oriented architectures (SOA). SOA is changing the way companies integrate existing business systems across the enterprise. The ability to integrate lead-to-order-, order-to-production-, production-to-delivery-, delivery-to-invoice-, and invoice-to-cash-oriented systems means organizations can hold onto their investment in staff knowledge, process, and procedures, and IT tools - specifically hardware and software. And they can do it while making the kinds of company-wide systems improvements needed to support diverse initiatives including e-commerce, B2B, and global economic trading.

Distributed computing has been around for many years. For some, SOA appears to be just hype on the same theme, but as a paradigm for developing an enterprise-wide architecture, it does have advantages. Today's distributed systems have a service-oriented focus, operate using loosely coupled components, are responsive to business transaction events, and support integrated as well as internally built solutions. Critically, they are designed around the data by which revenue-generating transactions are underpinned, and they make extensive use of existing infrastructure and software.

SOA offers independence across platforms and physical server dependency and represents a good opportunity for IT departments to streamline their infrastructures and squeeze more value from existing networks and systems. SOA enables dynamic use of available services via messaging and authentication, and is not prescriptive in the way system components interface with each other. When coupled with the use of software patterns - where knowledge is encapsulated within reusable service components - SOA can significantly improve reliability. From a service deployment perspective, this means a reduced need to buy new hardware and infrastructure software for each new line-of-business-driven project. Instead, organizations can benefit from standardizing, consolidating, and virtualizing server and software application environments, while focusing on additional cost reduction through skills consolidation and knowledge sharing when building communication interfaces between different technologies.

The nirvana resulting from pursing the SOA paradigm includes lower overhead costs in managing the underlying infrastructure, composite application construction and hence lower risk, and decision making based on the here-and-now - having data from across the enterprise available from a single application interface. To achieve this, organizations work toward integrating multiple systems and data sources to establish a single data taxonomy that delivers consistent views on that data - resulting in a shared service-oriented architecture up and down the supply-chain that the organization forms part of.

More Stories By Charles Rattray

Charles Rattray is director of professional services for Tideway. He is an accomplished IT professional with over 17 years of experience managing multi-million pound IT infrastructure projects and client engagements within the Financial Services industry. Prior to joining Tideway, he held positions at Sun Microsystems, Wellington Underwriting, and Manganese Bronze, overseeing projects in the investment banking, financial services, government, insurance, and engineering industries. Charles has an MBA from Liverpool University, England, and has a Post Graduate Diploma in Information Technology and a BA in Business from Stirling University, Scotland.

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