Putting the Business Back into SOA

Loraine Lawson

Once upon a time, every single aspect of service-oriented architecture was hotly debated, from what it meant to how to do it (SOAP versus REST) to whether it was alive or dead as a concept.


But in the past couple of years, a funny thing happened. SOA settled down. Its hype cycle leveled out, IT figured out how to do it and, quietly, SOA moved out of the spotlight and into the status quo for a lot of things, such as modernizing legacy systems.


We also acquired a new context for services - the cloud. While not all cloud/SaaS solutions are built with SOA, many are, and, if nothing else, the context of service-based solutions certainly gave business and IT a way to apply meaning to the lingo of SOA.


So, maybe it's not insane to suggest that we revisit some of the early promises of SOA, particularly the idea that it could be tied to business value.


A new report - available to Celent clients - revisits this lost concept of SOA, suggesting it's time to regain the business perspective. It's written by Celent Senior Research Analyst Ben Moreland, who shared some of the report's big ideas in a recent Insurance Networking article.


As SOA has matured, Moreland says it's rung up a number of successes, including addressing "the large IT pain points of complex and expensive integration hurdles created by the distribution of IT system solutions across the business," reports InsuranceNetworking.com. It has helped insurers reuse similar business functions, create standards-based interfaces and led to lower maintenance costs and quicker project delivery in more mature organizations.


But somewhere along the way, SOA became so IT-focused, it lost its business potential, Moreland notes. To regain that, Moreland suggests we introduce a new concept: business-oriented architecture, which will focus on the business model and processes - and, more on point, using these business-focused steps to drive SOA.


BOA would be driven by the business and be based on three principles:


  • Implementation independence
  • Location independence
  • Contracts

From what I gather, the main idea is to get the technology and IT stuff out of the way and focus on the business drivers. The article includes this quote from Moreland by way of explanation:

The focus on BOA is the business, business models, business processes (independent of implementation), and customers. In its ideal state, BOA should not have any dependencies. It is 100 percent driven from business goals and objectives, customer expectations and regulations. It should drive SOA - not the other way around.

It'd be great if SOA could pick up that missing business process piece - although I'm not sure another three-letter acronym is the way to achieve that goal. But certainly, I think organizations might be ready to see and accept that SOA has more to offer.


Gartner vice president and distinguished analyst Anne Thomas Manes - she of the "SOA is Dead" fame - recently pointed out that SOA could be used to simplify application development in a world where you never have to support multiple types of clients, such as mobile devices or Web-based clients.


"Today, it is a more complex environment, with multiple moving parts. And not everything is sitting in an application server. Services will be used in multiple applications," Manes is quoted as saying in a recent TechTarget article.

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