Nine frequently asked questions about service-oriented architecture (SOA)
- What is SOA?
- Are UK companies adopting SOA?
- Why are companies adopting SOA?
- How does SOA enable organisations to modernise IT infrastructure?
- How does SOA support business agility?
- What are the most easily measurable business benefits of SOA?
- What are IT suppliers doing to support SOA?
- What are businesses doing to support SOA?
- Why is SOA governance important?
A service-oriented architecture (SOA) is a standardised IT architecture designed to support the connection of various applications and the sharing of data.
An SOA is aimed at enabling the reusability of software and requires a new approach to software development.
Applications can be constructed from reusable components called services rather than as a single monolithic program.
Applications are typically made up of web services that perform different functions that may be called when needed.
A service is a self-contained repeatable business activity with a specific outcome such as a customer credit check.
Nearly half of UK companies are pursuing SOA. But the number of companies investing in actual projects is still relatively low.
Surveys show that only 20% of UK companies have implemented one or more SOA projects.
UK business is lagging behind the rest of the world in its understanding of SOA, according to an SAP user group survey.
More than half (55%) of UK companies do not understand SOA or have no plans to implement it, the survey found.
SOA is key to many organisations' strategy to:
- modernise IT infrastructure
- cut costs of providing IT services
- support business agility
- increase return on application development
Organisations are able to connect to business partners and customers using a modern web-based infrastructure, without losing the functionality of legacy systems.
Existing systems can be re-packaged as services to make functionality and resources more accessible to the business, enabling companies to get more out of legacy IT.
Economic considerations are driving companies to switch to a SOA to extend the life of legacy systems.
Banks rely heavily on data in thousands of legacy systems. Instead of replacing these systems, most are introducing SOA to connect them to modern IT banking systems.
Some banks have even created their own service-oriented platforms to ensure independence from suppliers of SOA technologies.
Other organisations are using SOA to create web-based portals to enterprise resources to support sales and service representatives in the field.
Implementing an SOA enables organisations to have greater IT flexibility.
IT services connecting to different internal and external IT resources can easily be restructured to respond to changing business needs.
How does SOA increase return on application development?
The business is able to create IT assets that can be re-used in different combinations to respond to changing needs.
A company can build up an inventory of applications and then make them available as services so they can be re-used by other parts of the business.
Increased speed of network-based processes because of increased flexibility and scalability of SOA-enabled systems is a key business benefit.
SOA is particularly well suited to speeding up processes that involve a large number of information sources spread over large geographical areas.
Rapid product development through the re-use of existing services is another way businesses are benefiting from implementing SOA.
Most large IT suppliers are introducing product sets to help simplify the deployment of SOA.
Several IT suppliers have also introduced software to manage SOA deployments.
Organisations that can afford the start-up costs are creating SOA centres of excellence to save money in the longer term to ensure service quality, consistency and reuse.
According to analyst Gartner, such centres enable average savings of 30% in time and expenditure on application integration and data interface development.
The can also cut maintenance costs by 20% and help ensure component reuse levels of about 25%.
Many SOA implementations have failed to deliver expected results because the various services in use have not been controlled and managed properly.
SOA implementations need governance to prevent them from ending up in chaos, according to the Butler Group.
The analyst group says organisations that under-invest in SOA governance will fail to reap the long-term benefits that SOA offers.
This was first published in November 2008