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Leveraging SOA for Business Value

The need for input from business users may vary depending on the scope of the SOA development project. If the goal is to rationalize a single existing process to be more consistent across the enterprise, input from business users is less important. If a new service is being added, the importance of the business perspective increases. Finally, if the SOA build-out encompasses a strategic vision and incorporates external partners, the business element would dominate, especially in the early stages of the project.

CentraSite is an SOA registry and repository developed jointly by Software AG and Fujitsu. The purpose of the product, introduced a year ago, is to automate processes involved in SOA governance while managing the underlying metadata, thereby simplifying adoption of SOA. It allows automated governance processes such as validation and registration of services. In addition, it provides templates for life cycle management of SOA artifacts, which are elements such as stored processes and documentation. One of the more powerful features is SOA federation, which coordinates governance across an enterprisewide infrastructure.

SOA community

The greater the extent of the service-oriented architecture infrastructure, the more a governance method is needed. Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), which has more than 30,000 employees and includes four different airlines with a variety of IT platforms, has been using SOA for five years. Prior to deployment of CentraSite, prospective users had to search for documentation and services in numerous locations, and if a service failed, the cause was difficult to determine. After the implementation, SAS was able to govern that heterogeneous SOA environment in a consistent way, and the company improved collaboration across projects and achieved an overall improvement in the quality of services.

The CentraSite Community is an environment developed by Software AG and Fujitsu in which many SOA partners can work on developing third-party solutions that permit interoperability. Members of the community include enterprise architects, composite application developers and providers of modeling tools. The community also offers resources such as best-practice information and SOA news, and helps develop standards. A primary impetus for the formation of the community was recognition that distributed systems are integral to SOA solutions and need to be governed effectively.

Guidelines for success

As with many software application implementations, a good model is to start small, get a quick win and then build out steadily over time. The development of a service is not inexpensive, and until it is reused, the organization does not achieve the potential savings. But if the services are well chosen with an eye toward what is likely to be needed enterprisewide, they will eventually be used by others, and the
development cost spread over more applications.

Once the services are available, drops of 10 percent to 40 percent in project costs and reductions of 40 percent to 50 percent in development times can be achieved. What is harder to measure is the exact business value of the service. The business benefit can outweigh the savings resulting from reuse of code, if it relates to such key performance indicators as reduced time to
introduce a product, or increased customer retention.

Effective governance is also central to long-term success. For the initial pilot, organizations may not see a need for a full-fledged management system for tracking services. But as the services multiply, the need for structure and a systematic process increases. Gartner has predicted that the major reason for failure in SOA products with more than 50 services will be inadequate governance.

Despite the hype, it’s important to remember that SOA is not ideal for every situation. If large numbers of transactions are being processed quickly and effectively in an application, for example, an SOA service should not be allowed to disrupt it in order to complete a less mission-critical action. But for many organizations seeking agility and flexibility, SOA holds much promise.   

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