Gartner Says Application Integration Essential to SOA

Loraine Lawson

If you think moving to SOA means you won't have to deal separately with application integration, think again, says Gartner research vice president Jess Thompson. Thompson contends application integration is fundamental for deploying services, especially given Gartner's prediction that over 70 percent of services deployed through SOA will be built using existing applications.

Thompson and fellow Gartner analyst Jeff Comport made their case for application integration's continued importance in a recent free podcast. Honestly, I didn't know anyone was contesting this position, but Gartner so seldom gives anything away, I thought I'd listen anyway. And I'm glad I did, because I learned a lot from this 10:53 minute discussion.

Thompson's thesis is that IT shouldn't toss out the lessons of application integration as it begins SOA. After all, the first wave of application integration involved defining good services and practical processes, which are going to be critical components for successful services.

He also offered a few recommendations:

  • More than 40 percent of large organizations have integration competency centers in place, and if you have one, then that's where you should place the role and responsibility of developing services for your SOA.
  • Of course, putting responsibility for SOA services in the integration competency center does NOT eliminate the need for a SOA center of excellence, because, frankly, why have one center when two will do? No, I'm kidding. That's not what they said. What Thompson and Comport actually said is you still need an SOA center of excellence to handle other SOA-related stuff, like governance. But your SOA center of excellence should be an extension of your integration competency center.
  • Speaking of cooks in the kitchen, you should also add a data architect, just to make sure the types of application integration work well with your enterprise information center of excellence.
  • They also talked about the relationship of business process integration and application integration. The Gartner analysts pointed out that business process management has always extended beyond mere technology -- it's also about human activities. And now BPM is transforming from a technology solution to a discipline, which I thought was a good observation and helpful in clarifying some of the confusion over BPM and how it relates to SOA.

I'm probably going to reveal what a complete ignoramus I can be about some things, but while I'm on it, Thompson went on to define what he meant by discipline. That's a word I see thrown around a lot, to the point where it seems to have several meanings. So when he defined the discipline of BPM, I wrote it down:

A set of activities that go around a lifecycle that starts from a definition of business processes and continuing through measuring the execution of deployed business processes, analyzing the metrics associated with that execution and then optimizing the processes based on that.

As is typical of Gartner, the discussion seems mostly applicable to large enterprises, but there's takeaway here for mid-size organizations as well:

  • Follow accepted application integration practices even if you're moving to SOA
  • Don't leave your application integration team - even if it's a few people - out of the SOA loop
  • Make sure you're taking into account how application integration and services work with your data.

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