You want to know where to start with SOA? Start with a portal.
That's what Tom Termini suggests. Termini is the author of "The Zen of SOA," a book that draws on his experience designing SOA for federal agencies and private companies as the co-founder of BlueDog.
Despite the abstract title, he offers specific tips for succeeding with SOA in this Government Computing News interview.
For instance: Portals. He suggests you start and end with a portal:
"It is the end-user that we are serving. ... A portal has been an instrumental tool, in terms of making all this effort on the end-users behalf really come together. That's the front end. On the back end, you are writing services and extracting data or transforming data for consumption. It is very convenient that you know what your endpoint is going to be, a portal environment. So you start and end with the user in mind."
And forget bottom-up SOA. Termini says the CIO is vital to SOA success. "The most successful projects we have been involved with, the CIO has had this overarching vision," Termini said. "If you're not up high enough, you're not going to see that mountain."
But it's not enough to have a CIO who understands the philosophy of SOA, either. Termini added that the CIO has to also understand the technology:
"Even though it may seem like we're talking about technology in the abstract, there does need to be a certain amount of understanding and sometimes fairly in-depth knowledge of the various pieces of technology that can go toward building SOA. We've worked with some CIOs who were really great managers and that was vital to getting a project done. But in the end, the projects that were declared successes were where the CIO really understood the technology components."
The interview is interesting for another reason: It focuses on government agencies that have succeed with SOA. In the past, SOA success stories have tended to hail from the private sector. But in a way, SOA makes even more sense for government, which doesn't have the time/payoff pressures you see in private companies. It seems to me there's also a broader potential for service reuse among government agencies, as Termini's example with the National Institutes of Health and the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute show.
If you'd like to read more from Termini about SOA success, you might also want to check out this January SOA World article, which summarizes his Seven Steps to SOA Nirvana.