How Does SOA 'Work with' EA?

Loraine Lawson

How enterprise architecture and service-oriented architecture "fit together" probably will be something you'll be reading more about in the coming months. I say this because there have been several conferences, white papers and presentations on the topic lately.


Now, some people who read this blog eat and breathe SOA and/or EA.


For the rest of us, here's the deal, in short:


Enterprise Architecture (EA) is a strategic management discipline, according to a definition from a recent EA Directions presentation.


The goal of enterprise architecture is to break down information silos and allow information to flow between the business units and business processes. Needless to say, it's a practice, with a formal methodology and various styles.


It seems obvious that SOA would help with EA, but since SOA is still in the early stages of adoption, everyone's still trying to figure out how SOA will fit in with EA.


The answer, according to a recent white paper from The Open Group, David Linthicum and various others, is simply that SOA is an architecture that supports services and, therefore, one way to do EA. Eventually, SOA will become a core EA discipline. That makes sense.


The problem is in the details. For instance, how do you apply EA methods to SOA? Are there certain stages of EA development that have to be amended to accommodate SOA? Well, yes, it turns out, there are. So how do you deal with that? And just how does SOA fit in with existing architecture styles?


And there's a long way to go before those questions are worked out in the EA and SOA community. To give you an idea of how much work remains to be done, consider this: The Open Group, which deals with EA standards, just this month issued a white paper defining SOA.


It also outlines how the Open Group's Architecture Framework -- an EA practice -- applies (or doesn't) to SOA, then proceeds to list the plethora of SOA issues the group still needs to tackle, including governance definitions and processes, an open-standards maturity model, and the application of service-orientation to IT infrastructure. (Since, really - as the white paper points out - when most people talk about SOA, they mostly mean SOA as it applies to the applications architecture.)


David Linthicum recently spoke about SOA and EA at the Open Group's 15th Enterprise Architecture Practitioners Conference. There, he made the following statement:

"Five years from now, we won't be talking about SOA... It will all be folded into EA."

As yesterday's InfoWorld blog post shows, conference-going bloggers had a lot to say about his comments and the topic.


Some of this conversation about SOA/EA may go beyond your need-to-know level. So, bottom line, what does this mean for the business?


"Can EA and SOA Get Along?", a great free Webinar, can help you understand what this issue means in the real world, both in terms of hurting your SOA efforts and working against your EA strategy.


It's presented by the Linthicum Group and EA Directions and lasts for about an hour and a half. If you don't have time for the full presentation, skip ahead to minute 55, where it begins to discuss exactly what businesses should expect from EA and SOA, what can be done within your organization to bring SOA and EA together, and enterprise governance - which brings together governance of EA and SOA.


You can find a link to the Webinar from Linthicum's blog or go directly to the EA Directions site. You'll need to sign up for free registration to access the presentation.

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