So SOA will make life simple... but for who?

The demands of service oriented architecture

I have been reading about how service oriented architecture (SOA) will make life so much easier for IT and the business to work together to build new services and systems.

The idea is that SOA will align IT and the business and enable rapid or even instant creation of new applications. But what happens when these new services and applications need to be supported and managed in your production environment? Will life be any simpler? Will IT be more aligned to the business?

I have been investigating the impact SOA will have on service management and support. My findings are that SOA will generally add complexity for service management and support, with the potential to reduce the quality of service provided. I see two key reasons why is this likely to happen.

Increased complexity

First, service and application creation and changes will be far more dynamic. To make matters more difficult, these changes will be far more in the hands of the business than we have experienced so far. Until recently, the underlying architecture and how it is used has been firmly in the control of the service support teams.

With SOA, the business will be able to implement changes that could have a significant impact on how the underlying architecture is used. The end result is a reduction in the ability of the service support team to control and plan their environments.

Second, applications may get simpler, but the architecture gets more complex.

Previously, in a tightly coupled application, links between the various tiers and components would have been purpose-written, specific and direct. With the SOA loosely coupled approach, all this changes.

In fact, one of the key goals of SOA is to remove these purpose-written links and replace them with generic links centred around business functions. To achieve this, new components such as orchestration/workflow engines, communication adapters/translators and service locators will need to be added to the architecture.

Reduced reliability

Increased complexity can reduce reliability. On top this, it will also be less clearly defined how applications and services will run on the infrastructure.

Increased complexity in the architecture with less clarity on how the customer uses it, will have a direct impact on several of the key IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) processes such as configuration management, capacity management, service continuity and the charging process in financial management.

SOA is going to happen whether we like it or not. However, if it is to be a success we have to be able to adapt the service management and support functions to meet the new demands SOA will provide.

People, processes and tools will all need to change to accommodate this latest paradigm shift in IT implementation.

Graham Prentice is chairman of the UK Computer Measurement Group and senior capacity and performance manager at Friends Provident

Graham Prentice will present his findings in greater detail at the 21st UKCMG Annual Conference and Exhibition in Warwick on the 26-28 June.


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