5 Reasons SOA Will Save the World

April 20, 2011

EE615 Brandon Morgado

Throughout the last decade, the term Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) has been thrown around IT departments and organizational meetings like crazy. As business fads usually do, it seems to have taken the entire industry by storm. However, the strange thing about this buzz word is that it actually makes a lot of sense.

Perhaps SOA won’t actually save the world, but chances are that applying this architecture to your organization will provide great benefits in the following ways.

-Loose Coupling Applies to Everything

"Things should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler." — Albert Einstein

In system design a loosely coupled system is one where each of its components has no knowledge of the definitions of other separate components (1). This is desirable in a service oriented architecture because it enables developers to focus on the real dependencies of their systems and avoid needless overhead and burdensome rewrites.

If a software system could be transformed into a restaurant we would see this principle illustrated. A waiter’s job is to take the customer’s order and relay it to the cooks. The waiter doesn’t need to know how or what the cooks do to the order. All they know is their specific task; take the order. By keeping the roles at their absolute minimum, the individual contributors within the system can perform efficiently, independently and extensibly. (2)

-The Simplicity of Services

In a Service Oriented Architecture, services are like the foundational building blocks. They make up the unique tasks and objectives and are represented in their simplest and most basic form.

These services hide the internal workings from outside intrusion. The system as a whole is much less susceptible to security issues as well as bugs stemming from overly complex design.

Services also present a simple interface to the rest of the organism. Each service may interact with the system as needed. Nothing stands to complicate the system or interfere with other processes.

-Increased Organizational Agility

As a system or organization transitions to a service oriented structure, the organization itself will become much more fluid. Each component, whether a developer or team of developers, has the freedom to worry only about their own objectives. Surely an organization that is truly built on SOA will take some time to develop, but once it is mature, it is easy to envision a company where upstream issues genuinely have little to no affect on the outcome of another portion of the company.

This results in the creation of services that are highly standardized and reusable. Practically speaking, no company will probably ever experience partitioning to this level, but the goal of a flexible and agile organization is definitely a worthy one. (4)

-Reduce IT Burden

In his book, What is SOA?, Thomas Erl states:
“Consistently applying service-orientation results in an IT enterprise with reduced waste and redundancy, reduced size and operational cost, and reduced overhead associated with its governance and evolution. Such an enterprise can benefit an organization through dramatic increases in efficiency and cost-effectiveness.”(4)

Simply rephrased: employers will spend less money and will experience less frustration in a Service Oriented Architecture. This makes sense, as problems will be easier to identify, and the flow of information will be free and organic. Transitioning to a new architecture is another story.

But if the transition is handled in a successful manner…

-It Makes Business Sense

It is not difficult to imagine a near future where most software will be delivered or consumed in the form of a service. (3) And why not? If the developers have the freedom and autonomy to create code based on loosely coupled dependencies, if the services of the product can be reduced to their simplest form, if the organization becomes more flexible while lifting most of the undue burden from the IT department, it’s not hard to see the value here.

By clearly explaining to the decision makers, the advantage of utilizing a Service Oriented Architecture, most organizations should readily see the advantages.

1 – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loose_coupling
2 – http://www.xml.com/pub/a/ws/2003/09/30/soa.html
3 – http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa480021.aspx
4 – http://www.whatissoa.com/increased_organizational_agility.php

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One Response to “5 Reasons SOA Will Save the World”

  1. Vincent Cockrell said

    I am currently looking at the potential for developing a service oriented architecture in our organization for the very reason mentioned in your post, ” upstream issues genuinely have little to no affect on the outcome of another portion of the company”. I’m hoping to ensure that hiccups in one area remain isolated from the other business functions.

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