Service oriented architectures (SOAs) have come of age and organisations should use them to cut costs and gain business efficiencies, IDC said this week.
SOA is a software architecture that recombines and redeploys existing code to save money and make business processes more efficient. Two organisations that recently outlined the benefits they gained from using SOA are financial services company Standard Life and the Dublin-based Beaumont Hospital.
Standard Life said it has saved £2m over the past three years by re-using its software through an SOA. It has rolled out some 250 services to provide claims, customer and debit card data, and access to third-party services such as money laundering checks.
Beaumont Hospital has based its SOA on BEA's Weblogic Server 8.1. It has repurposed legacy data and can use web services to securely retrieve demographic data from patient records.
IDC is hosting a conference on the benefits of SOAs this week, which will examine the business reasons for implementing SOAs, how to enable legacy systems, and how to build composite applications and manage security.
Rob Hailstone, IDC research director, advised users who wanted to get a good return on investment on an SOA to start small. "Pick projects that are not too difficult but have business value. Use external consultancies where relevant," he said.
He added that although SOAs have been around for decades, it has now become a genuine architecture rather than just a technology. This is because suppliers are working together to offer a set of interoperable products.
"There are many market leaders: Microsoft, Oracle, SAP with Netweaver, BEA, Tibco and WebMethods. IBM covers a bigger slice of the SOA market. There are also systems management suppliers such as AmberPoint."
Hailstone said there are still some security and performance management issues to be dealt with, but added, "I see SOAs becoming the platform for what comes next - policy-based computing - where you are directly implementing business policies rather than managing transactions. But it is very early days yet."
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Suppliers take the SOA initiative
To encourage the adoption of service oriented architectures, IBM has announced a service to help firms build standards-based SOAs, based on an approach called service oriented modelling and architecture.
IBM has also added more than 30 open source projects to SourceForge.net, part of the Open Source Technology Group network - the world's largest collaborative development site - and has extended support for developers building web applications using PHP, a popular open source web development language for SOAs.
Rival SOA supplier BEA has released a web-based tool to help firms quantitatively measure SOA strategies. The BEA Service-Oriented Architecture Readiness Self-Assessment tool measures a company's plans against a given methodology.