What is Service Oriented Architecture and Who In My Company Should Be Involved?


Introduction

Today, organizations of all sizes are adopting Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) for delivery of critical enterprise services. In this post we will discuss what SOA is and who within the organization needs to be involved.

What is Service Oriented Architecture?

Service Oriented Architecture is an architectural style that exposes enterprise assets as services that can be configured and reused in business processes.SOA takes a process-centric view of the enterprise, viewing the enterprise as a collection of business processes. Three critical aspects of SOA are services, business processes and governance.

A service is an endpoint that responds to messages to perform some business task. SOA services are exposed via well defined interfaces and common protocols. Many SOA implementations uses SOAP web services but RESTful services and asynchronous protocols (JMS, MQ, FTP, DDS, AMQP) are also common. Services are layered with coarse-grained business services aggregating fine-grained application services.

A business process is an orchestrated sequence of service invocations that perform some business task. Business processes typically designed and executed in a process engine (IBM Integration Designer/Business Process Manager, Oracle BPEL Manager, Microsoft BizTalk, etc.) In SOA, new functionality is delivered in the form of a business process that utilizes multiple services to perform its task.

A governance plan aligns business operations and technology with enterprise goals. A governance plan defines the roles, responsibilities, policies and procedures necessary to manage the design, delivery and lifecycle of services and business processes.

SOA promises to deliver a number of benefits to the enterprise including reduced time to market, increased reuse and simplified maintenance. The primary benefit of SOA for most companies however, is agility. In my experience working with companies adopting SOA in a variety of industries, agility — the ability to quickly adapt to the changing competitive and regulatory environment — is the number one reason for adopting SOA.

Who In My Company Should Be Involved?

SOA is not just an IT initiative, SOA success depends on the support and involvement of stakeholders across the enterprise. SOA adoption will transcend IT, the business and the executive suite.

Executive level support is essential to successful SOA adoption. Since SOA depends on shared services and shared infrastructure, the way projects are funded in a SOA environment is significantly different than in traditional IT service delivery. SOA initiatives are designed to foster increased cooperation between IT and the business, often a SOA Center of Excellence (COE) is established. Ideally the COE should represent a broad constituency from across the company, in many cases co-locating IT and business personnel. All of these changes require executive support and sponsorship.

A key goal of SOA adoption is to reduce the gap between the IT shop and the business. The business understands the marketplace and regulatory environment and the IT shop understands capabilities. Aligning the two is critical to success — with or without SOA! A process-centric view of the business requires close involvement of business analysts and other business domain experts in creation of SOA. The business team will be involved in creating the governance plan to insure that the SOA implementation is in line with the tactical and strategic vision of the company.

The IT team will implement the services, processes, and infrastructure necessary to meet the needs of the business. SOA represents a significant change in the way that new capabilities are delivered and in the way that existing capabilities are modified. A SOA initiative will affect every part of the existing IT landscape.

Summary

SOA promises to deliver new and modified IT capabilities to organizations in an agile and responsive way. Though executive support and close cooperation between business analysts and IT SOA helps organization implement services and business processes that are in line with corporate tactical and strategic goals.

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