SOA: Where do we go from here?

SAN DIEGO, CALIF. —Service-oriented architecture has made great strides since its inception, but still has a way to go before its benefits can be fully realized. Experts at Gartner’s Application Integration & Web Services Summit 2006, which began Monday, discuss SOA’s stumbling blocks.

"SOA in many ways is still in its infancy; from a deployment angle, there is a long way to go," says Jeff Schulman, VP, Gartner. "We still need more work in tools, governance, re-usablity, and of course solid demonstrations of business benefit. When the business benefit angle—not just cost savings, but revenue enhancement and growth—is further demonstrated, SOA will take off more substantially."

For SOA to be fully realized, Ivo Totev, VP of Software AG’s Product Marketing Crossvision, says it needs to evolve in couple of areas:

  • Organizations need to understand the impact of SOA on their internal structures. New roles of services "champions" are needed within organizations. These champions will act as mediators between business and IT as well as between different departments that may not have interacted with each other in the past, but now need to talk because a business process requires it.
  • Another area is standards on how to describe, develop, manage and deploy whole solutions that consist of processes, services, policies and other elements. Here SCA looks like a compelling standard.
  • A very important driver for SOA is legacy modernization. This is about bringing new life and value to legacy applications by breaking them up into standards-based services, then exposing and reusing this functionality in new composite applications. These composite applications, in turn, must be user-friendly and productive. Web 2.0 and AJAX capabilities help in this case.

Totev says a handful of elements are needed to move SOA forward.

"Along with having a well-designed approach to Legacy Modernization, the major element is SOA management and governance from an early stage on," says Totev. "Here organizations need the ability to quickly find answers to challenges such as: Who is using what service? What happens if someone changes a service? How about the lifecycle support of a services environment?"

Also necessary, he says, is a new generation of composition tools that help business analysts to enhance processes and business apps based on models, which then must be shared with IT which will further enrich them and map process steps described in the model for services.

"In order to create a truly iterative process, you need the capability to zoom out of rich models and abstract those to a level that is understandable, and thus meaningful to business analysts," Totev concludes. "Only this type of approach allows true cooperation between business and IT. This was tried in the past through approaches such as UML, but it was too complex for business people. I believe that in this case a more favorable standard is BPEL, which is much better suited for this kind of collaboration."

About the Author

Shawna McAlearney is a senior web editor at Application Development Trends. She can be reached at [email protected].