Did SOA Deliver on Integration Promises?

Loraine Lawson
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10 Elements to Look for to Identify Agile Enterprise Integration Software

Oracle recently released an update to its Application Integration Architecture, which is largely a set of pre-built integration packets. All this focus on integration prompted an interesting question from Managing Automation's Stephanie Neil: Why isn't SOA enough to solve integration?


You may think that's a darn good question. After all, a few years ago, service-oriented architecture promised to make integration easy and snappy. And yet, here we are, still being sold new integration tools and solutions. What happened? Was it all just an empty promise?


The first thing I would say to that is the promise of SOA was to make integration easier and faster-not solve it altogether. But on top of that, as Tim Hall, Oracle's senior director of product management application integration architecture explained to Neil, a lot of things have changed since then. First, there's the cloud, which adds off-premise integration challenges for enterprises. There are also more programming languages, plus the never-ending need for customization, Hall told Neil.


All good points.


But while I was reading the article, I couldn't shake one thought: SOA certainly seems to have made integration easier for Oracle.


Read the news release on Oracle's AIA Release 3.1 and you'll find SOA mentioned four times:

  • "The Oracle Design-to-Release Integration Pack for Agile Product Lifecycle Management for Process and Oracle Process Manufacturing is a pre-built, best practice integration process that is configurable and extensible to meet your unique process needs. Based upon open standards-based Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA), it is designed to enable seamless synchronization of your enterprise product record and recipes across your supply chain and extended product network."
  • "Clinical Trial Payments Integration Pack for Siebel Clinical is a partial integration utilizing SOA technology providing the first building blocks to automate the clinical trial payment process. Payment request information from Siebel Clinical is plugged into a SOA-based integration that can be utilized by any other system in the payments process."
  • "Oracle AIA Foundation Pack enables companies to standardize enterprise integration efforts around a common framework and methodology, improving development productivity, service portfolio management, and SOA governance for faster delivery of lower cost, sustainable business processes."


Oracle isn't the only one, of course. I read a lot -- and I mean, A LOT -- of press releases from vendors selling middleware and integration connectors, and I promise you, SOA plays a prominent role in what they're offering. They've deployed service-oriented architectures within their organizations and products, and as a result, they're able to make their products easier to deploy and easier to sell to you.


So did SOA solve integration? No. But then again, no one ever promised you that. As Neil observes, we'll probably never see a "turnkey enterprise integration solution," but that's probably a good thing-after all, organizations have different needs, and such a solution would require an Orwellian-level of standardization.


You don't hear a lot these days about SOA and its integration benefits. ZDNet's Joe McKendrick-who keeps the faith for SOA though the hype has ended-didn't even mention it when he wrote about four good reasons to embrace service-oriented thinking in 2011.


Still, you don't have to look very far to see that SOA is the foundation for today's integration solutions. And that tells me a lot about how far SOA's taken integration for those who have pursued it.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Mar 17, 2011 6:26 PM Raman Raman  says:

Admittedly, there was/is a lot of hype. I believe SOA has merits and valuable substance. But, like many other technological advances in the past, SOA faces a variety of impediments, including:

-- lack of qualified engineers

-- lack of sustained senior management support

-- not my religion syndrome

-- traditional software engineering issues

I believe if properly done, keeping simplicity as an end goal, SOA can be very useful. I am not ready to give up on SOA yet.

Mar 17, 2011 6:27 PM Eric Aranow Eric Aranow  says:

What almost everyone seems to keep forgetting is that SOA by itself is just a way of packaging and accessing whatever is behind the interface.  95% of what makes integration successful is the hard work of architectural design (defining integration services that are more than just a wrapper around existing applications) and semantic analysis (coming up with interface data models that do not expose the inner workings of a service, and coming up with integration data models that can integrate among multiple sources). 

Without these, SOA is little more than a marketing device.  Mind you, the same thing is true of the Cloud - integration doesn't just "happen" and no amount of purchased technology will be able to eliminate the need for doing the integration ground work.


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