Technology has changed and continues to change the way companies do business. To help readers chart these waters, Mint will present, starting today, a regular interactive column on corporate technology with reader questions answered by experts. The first column looks at the issue of service-oriented architecture (SOA).
How would you compare delivering a service through an application versus delivering it through SOA?
A conventional application has a hard-coded business process as a part of the application—there is just one way in and the data comes out in one way.
With service-oriented architecture, users can access services from anywhere and build a business process, architecture or a framework around that. So, it doesn’t matter to me if I get 70% of my services from that core application and other aspects of it from other places. For example, if I wanted to create a customer-centric application, I could retrieve all the customer demographic information from my HR application and some financial info about the customers from a different application.
What are the challenges in adopting SOA?
The biggest challenge in SOA adoption is not about technology but the business processes. Some of the major obstacles for adoption arise when a business is not ready to re-engineer its processes.
Other issues include identifying a business rationale for SOA, communicating the business rationale to senior management; uncertainty about industry standards; and the ability to recruit and train a technical team.
First, a company needs to develop a strategy. The second thing is get the business involved with the IT function.
SOA has been talked about a lot for the last few years. Do you think there is more to it beyond the hype? Has it reached a stage where companies are actually looking at serious implementation?
Around this time last year, a more narrow group of customers were asking for SOA strategy, road map, assessment, prototypes, and demo projects. Those same customers have now matured to a point where they are doing full-blown solutions around SOA implementations, not just for integration but moving on to other business layers. They are not just looking at pure technology specific solutions. Companies that are a little late in the game are doing serious investigation on what they have to do.
What about SOA standards? Is there some clarity on these?
One reason SOA has become a reality is the wide acceptance of standards across the industry and their adoption by software vendors. Vendors have realized that their growth depends on providing open solutions that can be integrated with other solutions through these standards. There are established standards for web services and business processs management. Standards are still evolving for areas such as security, service governance, presentation and transaction management.
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This issue’s expert is Shanthi Ramamurthy, a senior manager (lead SOA), SOA practice, at Accenture’s Bangalore office.