Architecture & Design10 Steps to SOA Success

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For every service oriented architecture (SOA) success story, there lays an abandoned SOA project stuck in one of the various stages of deployment. Underscoring the successes and challenges of an SOA is the popularized theory that fifty percent of IT projects are deemed unsuccessful. This, of course, can make embarking on an SOA strategy rather intimidating.

Still, SOAs remain at the top of the executive and IT agenda based on their ability to more closely align technology with the needs of the business. Quickly dismantling the high statistics associated with IT project failures, SOAs have shown demonstrable ROI—so much so that the proven successes of SOAs have enabled this segment to swell to a worldwide market opportunity of $60.3 billion. This growth is up by 75 percent compared to 2005 when the market was estimated at $34.6 billion. Moreover, the SOA market is expected to skyrocket with an anticipated 54 percent continued growth through 2008 to reach $143 billion (Gartner).

Furthering the growth of the SOA market is the strategy’s ability to pay for itself quickly. In fact, the number of opportunities for quick return on investment can be surprising. For example, many organizations are unaware of the number of duplicate processes that occur in separate departments and applications—and how much these duplicate processes are costing them. When you examine the costs and lost revenue attributable to redundant function and duplicated effort, you begin to see the value of centralized services over having to manage multiple competing and overlapping functions.

Still, there are some watchers out there asking, ‘how can SOA succeed where previous approaches have failed?’ and ‘how do I avoid becoming a statistic?’

These are powerful questions. Simply stated, a successful SOA strategy can be achieved because the standards, best practices, and governance models have finally matured to the point where reuse can actually work. After all, SOA is, by definition, an architecture as well as an approach to IT that can help solve immediate business challenges.

Although each company has different business needs and each industry faces its own set of challenges, there are common issues that can lead to the failure of an SOA. The ten most prevalent are:

  1. Secure executive sponsorship: Before presenting how you’ll ensure your company’s SOA success, be prepared to demonstrate successes and failures of other companies on their path to SOA and articulate how you’ll emulate proven practices and avoid pitfalls.
  2. Align the troops: Converse to overcoming the obstacle of executive support for your SOA is the challenge of aligning your organization to work and think in new ways. To do this, identify and recruit critical champions for each part of the business who will support and even evangelize the SOA efforts.
  3. Consolidate views: Eliminate the multiple views of information that are currently floating across your organization so that you are only looking at a singular, comprehensive, and consistent view of the business.
  4. Reuse equals re-useful: Identify and maintain a repository of your current Web services to avoid duplication of efforts. You may be surprised how much work has already been done by different pockets of your organization.
  5. Integrate the silos: Although in theory many of today’s IT organizations seek to integrate and avoid redundancies while maximizing their current IT investments, the reality is that extraordinary efforts are being spent on still trying to maintain different IT systems that co-exist but are not integrated. The penny wise, pound foolish approach to SOA simply does not work.
  6. Seeing the forest through the trees: Remember that an SOA is an architecture, not a combination of clumsily bundled together point products that need to be force fit. A true SOA is created with an open standards-based approach through four strategic stages: model, assemble, deploy, and manage.
  7. Hop on the Enterprise Service Bus: An ESB provides the much needed connectivity infrastructure that you can use to integrate services within an SOA. Together, SOA and an ESB help to reduce the number of complexity of interfaces, enabling you to focus on your core business issues, rather than on maintaining your IT infrastructure.
  8. Step-by-step: When the thought of rolling out an enterprise-wide SOA becomes overwhelming, remember that the best approach is to continually test and modify while rolling it out—first departmentally then slowly throughout the organization—to identify issues while adding to your arsenal of best practices along the way.
  9. Avoid the carpe diem approach: Remember that you’re not building your SOA just for today or this year. This is an organization-wide approach to aligning IT with the needs of the business and must accommodate today’s needs as well as those of the future. For example, be sure to include support for mobile and wireless devices as well as ensuring you have enough flexibility to support ‘the next big thing.’
  10. Prevent the accidental SOA: Many organizations may discover that they have a healthy repository of Web services that will comprise the majority of their SOA, though don’t believe that the SOA starts and ends with a collection of Web services. Remember that an SOA must go beyond Web services to support all of your business processes. It must also provide a flexible, extensible, and composable approach to reusing and extending existing applications and services as well as constructing new ones.

So, if you’ve been hesitant to initiate an SOA project this year, make it your New Year’s resolution to better align your technology with the needs of the business and join the legions of developers driving revenue up and cost out of their companies. Follow these ten steps and you’ll be on your way to success.

About the Author

Sandy Carter is the vice president for SOA and WebSphere strategy at IBM. As IBM VP, Sandy has worldwide responsibility for marketing, strategy, and channels. During Sandy’s tenure, the WebSphere portfolio has grown 18% in 2005 over the prior year and is in its 26th consecutive quarter of growth. Her influence has significantly strengthened the WebSphere brand through IBM’s acquisitions of Gluecode, Ascential, and DataPower Corporations, and she has led WebSphere to win seven industry awards.

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