SOA rises through the cloud

Service oriented architecture (SOA) has reached a reasonable level of maturity, and users are seeing greater returns as their IT systems become more cloud-centric.

Service oriented architecture (SOA) has reached a reasonable level of maturity, and users are seeing greater returns as their IT systems become more cloud-centric.

Forrester's hot SOA tools for 2010  
 1. SOA lifecycle management
 2. SOA service registry
 3. SOA repository
 4. Enterprise Service Buses
 5. Business Process Management Suites

SOA is a way of building applications from software "services" that communicate and interoperate, rather than embedding calls to each other in their source code - which is the traditional method.

The technology is ideal for web applications and activities that span networks and boundaries. This is because services are independent of each other, interacting only when they need to.

Many banking and e-commerce sites, as well as Web 2.0 applications such as web mashups, online mapping and social networking, make use of SOA technology. But there is still huge scope for innovation.

Clive Longbottom, service director, business process analysis at analyst firm Quocirca, says the growth of cloud computing is a key driver for SOA adoption.

"Cloud changes the focus from application to function. So, for example, if you already have a load of data that includes addresses, it is just not worthwhile creating or buying in a mapping function or application any longer: you may as well just go to the cloud and use Google or Microsoft functions that create mashups."

However, Longbottom adds that the challenge for SOAs is that they must all be capable of exchanging information at a high level of fidelity.

The Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) is a core element of an SOA which will ensure that information that flows through it is put into a standardised format.

"In this way, if Google Maps are not what you wanted, you can easily change to Microsoft LiveMaps while maintaining your existing internal capabilities."

Open source SOAs

In the future more open source SOAs and ESBs could be adopted, but it will mainly be from the public sector cloud community, driven by cost constraints, says Longbottom.

Open source SOA provider MuleSource says it is seeing growing numbers of downloads of its Mule ESB integration platform amongst all sorts of user organisations.

The firm says that its integration and SOA platform has had more than one million downloads and is in production in over 2,000 sites worldwide.

Roy Schulte, Gartner vice-president and distinguished analyst, says, "Interest in open source SOA infrastructure is growing rapidly because of the increasing use of SOA in general, the spread of proprietary ESBs, and the low cost of open source ESBs."

The latter has the potential to reduce software costs, and encourage vendor independence, he adds.

Open source also offers a solution for companies that are not comfortable assembling and integrating the component parts of an open source SOA infrastructure themselves, says Schulte.

Jost Hoppermann, an analyst at Forrester Research, says a recent survey of enterprise architects, IT planners and strategists found that SOA uptake is accelerating among enterprises.

Eighty per cent of the enterprises asked either have a SOA initiative or are introducing it without a dedicated initiative. Only 7% were not looking at the technology at all.

"SOA has lived up to most expectations for the majority of firms," says Hoppermann, and this has led Forrester to predict that 2010 will be a key year for SOA adoption. In the meantime, SOA tooling will become more mature.


SOA Innovation

One example of a new and innovative SOA initiative is TheWebService, which is aimed at web developers.

The site uses a SOA-based technology called MyFeeds which allows web developers to build rich web and intranet applications that securely integrate and share data sets which are difficult to access.

The technology was developed by Jamie Turner , co-founder and CTO of Postcode Anywhere.

One company used MyFeeds to build an application that publishes live internal data online.

So, for example, it allowed a developer to set up a feed for the firm's ecommerce site to enable visitors to see live stock levels. However, the ecommerce software ran on one desktop, and the stock and order data was held offline somewhere else. TheWebService automatically generated the code required to connect the different elements, and the whole thing relied on SOA.

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