Gartner: SOA and Other Trends to Change How Apps Interoperate

Service-oriented architecture and enterprise service buses will affect app dev and integration over the next 5 years, according to Roy Schulte, a Gartner analyst, at this week’s Gartner Symposium ITxpo in Orlando, Fla.

“There’s no such thing as standalone applications,” Schulte says. “There’s always some connection [from applications] to anything else you do,” even if the connection is a batch file transfer.

Companies’ application systems traditionally consisted of a few, fairly large programs. Developers needed to manually code integration between these systems. Application integration accounts for approximately 35 percent of the total cost of application design, development and maintenance.

“There’s no such thing as an integration project without application development, and there’s no such thing as a development project without integration,” he says.

Application design and integration are undergoing a transition, Schulte says, in the same way as business needs are evolving. Companies want to modify their apps more quickly, but they’re stuck with huge investments in legacy systems that are cumbersome to change.

Companies are moving to SOA to build, maintain and integrate application systems. Gartner defines SOA as a way of structuring a distributed application so client software modules send requests to one or more services. Each service can be used in multiple apps and can be invoked by disparate clients over a network.

Schulte says SOA appeared as early as the mid-90s. “I’m more surprised that more [adoption] hasn’t been done by now,” he says. “I expected SOA to be all done by 2000. But there’s more talk about it now than ever before.”

If companies have 10 percent to 40 percent of their apps as reusable services, “that’s a good SOA environment,” Schulte says. These reusable services will have two or more clients calling them.

Schulte says companies will rely on ESBs to support communication in large, complex SOA environments. According to Gartner, ESB is Web services-based middleware that supports highly functional forms of program-to-program communication and mediation.

“Do you think Oracle and SAP are going to sit down and figure out the interfaces [in their applications] to speak to each other?” Schulte says. “The answer is no. There’s a lot of custom work involved and customers have to take these packages as is.”

ESBs allow companies to mix and match applications that run in disparate platforms, such as Java and .NET. Schulte expects more than half of all enterprises will implement an ESB in their application environment by the end of 2006.

Developers will also get some help from inside-out design, according to Schulte. Inside-out design will help developers conceptualize the network into an enterprise nervous system of logic and data.

“It treats applications as endpoints, rather than the center of the universe,” Schulte says. Legacy and custom applications are no longer the central point to design business processes, rather they become endpoints. Developers won’t need to modify the app’s code and databases when business requirements change.

About the Author

Kathleen Ohlson is senior editor at Application Development Trends magazine.