An IT architecture based around services could help users tackle computationally complex tasks in the area of real-time decision support.
In areas involving real-time transaction processing, such as banking, coping with exceptions requires costly manual intervention. If this could be automated, businesses could reap huge savings.
Analysts believe service oriented architectures (SOAs) could provide a simple way of achieving tasks that require vast amounts of programming, such as exception handling in banking.
SOAs use web services standards to overcome many of the problems of integrating different IT systems. One of the main benefits of an SOA running across the business is that different IT systems can be monitored simultaneously to discover complex patterns of events occurring within business processes automatically. This would allow businesses to automate complex event handling - known as event stream processing.
Ovum analyst Bola Rotibi said, "Any event handling is complex." The challenge is that IT systems run multiple events in parallel. "Keeping things in synch is quite an issue."
With an SOA, users can set up trigger points. "When one event occurs, it is flagged - so if another event occurs you can match," she said. Developing such systems requires heavy programming.
Three companies specialising in SOAs have unveiled a blueprint for helping users progress from simple to complex IT systems based on services.
The SOA maturity model has been jointly developed by middleware developer Sonic Software, management tools supplier AmberPoint, and consulting firm BearingPoint. It has been designed to give IT directors a way to develop their own roadmaps for rolling out SOAs.
Starting with individual projects, users begin to apply metrics to their SOA and start linking other functional areas of the business together as they increase their expertise in building applications based on a service-based architecture. More sophisticated use leads to an architecture that supports collaboration between businesses units and business-to-business connectivity.
David Chappell, chief technology evangelist at Sonic Software, said many users were beginning to pilot SOA-based systems using the WS standards and Soap (Simple Object Access Protocol).
Once people have gained an understanding of a basic SOA, they can start building architectures that work across functional business units. Event stream processing is possible once the business is running on an SOA.
The highest level in the blueprint put forward by Sonic, AmberPoint and BearingPoint is where users are able to run business activity monitoring and automatically adapt business processes.