Qualcomm Successfully Cuts Down on Integration Work and Costs

Loraine Lawson

One of the more confusing debates about service-oriented architecture is when an implementation is enterprise application integration or actually a SOA.

I was reminded of this old debate while reading this recent CIO article, "How One Company Broke Down Silos and Improved Application Integration." It recounts how wireless telecom, Qualcomm, used SOA to eliminate enterprise IT silos and much of the point-to-point integration the required.

Qualcomm is pretty darn pleased with its SOA implementation, which started back in 2001. At the time, its business was hampered by the siloed IT architecture. The article gives examples of some of the crazy problems this caused, like, for instance, its employees had to extract data from the ERP system three times and send it to three different systems. They also couldn't add or delete features to remote wireless devices in real time, which was something of an annoyance, since it meant customers might have features for which they had never paid.

Qualcomm's director of enterprise architecture, Steve Polaski, explained the impact of the integration problems to CIO.com:

We saw a lot of our IT budget being consumed handling integration. Some of our core systems had dozens, even hundreds, of integration points. It was a challenge to keep track of them all and was a big expenditure and was slowing us down.
Five years later and one globally-deployed SOA later, everything's much improved at Qualcomm, according to the article. The company reports it's freed up a half-million dollars of integration costs out of its IT budget - annually. It's also easier to deploy SaaS solutions and, here's the good news for the business: The company can now handle real-time provisioning, so you can add features to a wireless device in five seconds, rather than the three hours it previously took.

So far, the article looks like a great SOA success story, and then I see this:
We were thinking about the space -- then known as EAI (enterprise application integration) -- and services, back in 2001. We knew back then that this was the future, the way to go. ...
Interesting. So, if I'm to understand this, Qualcomm actually started out doing EAI and then it evolved toward SOA. How does that happen?

IT Business Edge reader and IT pro Mark Griffin, responding to June post about integration and SOA, explained the relationship between SOA and EAI this way:
The concepts behind the patterns of EAI are very similar to SOA. Abstraction, reuse, composability, fine grain, coarse grain are all there in EAI just like SOA. Integrations are, in effect, services if done correctly -- not just moving data around, which is a common EAI misnomer. It's not the latest and greatest buzzword, so a lot of analyst are glossing over the actual details of what EAI was and is.
I'd love to see what others say about Qualcomm's SOA success story. Is this SOA -- or EAI 2.0?

Maybe you care, maybe you don't. Whatever you call it, it's a great integration and IT success story.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Sep 18, 2008 7:34 PM Rob Eamon Rob Eamon  says:
An interesting article from Dern about Qualcomm. As to your question "is this SOA or EAI"? From the information in the article, we can't tell. As with most "SOA success stories" the talk is all about the communication tools and very little about the services, other than that some exist. And in this case, the predominant feature seemed to be in accessing applications as though they were services.Now creating services with existing applications as the core implementation detail behind them is a very valid thing to do. But it is unclear in the article if this is what was done--or if "services" were simply an API to an application.They mention 58 web services, and "180 other services through application APIs" but nothing about the service characteristics. What's the level of service granularity? Did services expose multiple interfaces? Do they view a service to be a specific function or is the service an abstraction with many operations? In my mind, those are some of the interesting new things. Talking about TIBCO and real-time integration is old, old news.That Qualcomm has achieved success and business benefit seems very clear in the article. That's awesome. The approach taken to do new projects the new way and migrate existing integrations when the opporunity arose sounds like it was successful. Most excellent. Reducing redundancies and moving toward real-time interactions can be very effective.But what is unclear is the SOA-ness of what they have. This story sounds exactly like a classic integration case study. SOA case studies should focus primarily on services, not on the communication toolsets. If you say "EAI 2.0" again, I may have to boycott. ;-) Reply
Sep 23, 2008 9:58 AM QCT QCT  says:
Rob, I see your point wrt addressing specific points of the SOA architecture, but this is an article, not a peer reviewed journal. I believe the intent is to point out that a well known company has had some success with SOA functionality and is willing to go on the record as having done so, but I would surprised to hear that Qualcomm is the only company that (apparently) prefers to be contrite when publicly discussing core information systems.Thanks,QCTQCT Reply
Sep 24, 2008 8:43 AM Rob Eamon Rob Eamon  says:
"...but this is an article, not a peer reviewed journal."That's understandable. But I don't think I was calling for a deep-dive into all the gory details, just a bit more focus on the characteristics of the services." I believe the intent is to point out that a well known company has had some success with SOA functionality"If that was the intent then you missed. Stating that services exists, connected by a classic integration toolset misses the SOA part almost completely. The solution as presented is all but indistinguishable from classic integration case-studies/articles of the past.Qualcomm is definitely not the only company that doesn't want to reveal too much. That's entirely understandable. My only point is that we cannot assess Lawson's question of "is this an SOA implementation or is it classic integration" from the content of the article. Reply

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