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Editor’s letter: SOA’s up or SOA what?

The software community, from Microsoft and IBM to the smallest of suppliers, has been touting Service-Oriented Architecture, aka SOA, as a silver-bullet solution to the age-old problem of integrating dissimilar apps and software technologies. SOA, defined simply as a loosely coupled collection of services, is the latest in a proud line of technologies created through the years by some of the brightest minds in the business trying to solve the complex problem of integration.

SOA-like architectures first emerged years ago as Object Request Brokers (ORBs) from the development labs of IBM, Digital Equipment, Data General, HP and others. Much of those efforts were utilized by the OMG to create an ORB standard dubbed the Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA). That elaborate technology remains in use in some of the largest, most technical sites in the world, but its complexity kept it from reaching the masses. Microsoft offered hope to the more common IT shops with its COM and, later, DCOM and ActiveX technologies that did bring some simple component-based development to life; yet they couldn’t meet the needs of corporate developers building enterprise apps.

We’ve been hearing the buzz about SOA for some time as it overtakes related technologies Web services and XML in the “next big thing” sweepstakes. But SOA has yet to make a difference in many corporate IT operations as analysts say development managers continue to mostly kick the tires.

In this month’s Cover Story (“SOA’s up!”), veteran technology writer Colleen Frye looks at the state of SOA today and where IT executives and industry experts expect it to be some time down the road. Frye looks at oft-stated claims that SOA will bring business and IT closer together, making organizations more flexible, agile and competitive.

There’s no shame in expressing skepticism that SOA is nirvana, but Frye does find reasons for optimism that the technology could benefit IT development and integration projects. IT managers from a variety of fields tell Frye that early SOA efforts look promising and are so far clearly worth the time and effort. We will continue to keep a close eye on SOA, and will let you and your colleagues tell us whether it can continue to meet its promise.

This issue also features profiles of five development organizations and how they are using Web services to build and integrate apps (“5 ways to better Web services”). IT managers tell reporters Lana Gates, Rich Seeley, Jack Vaughan and John Waters how their firms are using development tools that support Web services standards, and how they can use standard specs to build new apps, and integrate or extend existing ones.

About the Author

Mike Bucken is former Editor-in-Chief of Application Development Trends magazine.

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