Turner acknowledges that without a compelling need, it would be virtually impossible to obtain funding to rearchitect a system with SOA. "That implies jacking up the house to redo the foundation. People don't do that. Instead they say, the next time we develop this application, we'll build a different kind of foundation with more flexible components that can be re-used."
But the consequences of putting off repairs to faltering IT infrastructure are higher costs in the long run, he warns. "The operational costs of application management are significantly higher than they need to be. And it's more complex to make modifications or add-ons to non-SOA systems. We're paying for the fact we're not getting on board."
Even a trivial change like adding a new field to a legacy system can cost millions, agrees Tom Metzger, director of solutions engineering at Vancouver-based Make Technologies Inc., which specializes in modernizing legacy systems. "Future maintainability of systems is a big driver in the public sector. And many government organizations are on the hook to respond to legislative changes."
Some crown corporations have been early adopters of SOA, says BEA's Charlton. "We've seen some aggressive adoption at Farm Credit and Canada Post." He points out that Treasury Board is actively pursuing a strategy for IT transformation across the public sector. The challenge is overcoming the inertia to get started by focusing on agencies with a pressing need to undergo change.
"Agencies tasked with counter-terrorism are great examples," says Charlton. "The RCMP and DND are starting to adopt SOA. They're already doing it in front-line applications and they're modeling their approach after the U.S. Department of Defense, which is based on a SOA foundation."
The lack of a clear vision to sell to politicians and constituents contributes to funding issues, suggests Michael Kuhbock, founder and CEO of the Integration Consortium, an international industry association based in Calgary.
While creating citizen-centered services may be a worthy cause, the public doesn't perceive any urgency. "They say: Everything seems to work okay, so why spend millions on SOA when there are other needs?" says Kuhbock.
Kuhbock believes an issue that fires passions and unifies efforts, such as environmental stewardship, may play that role in the future. Every service the government provides, and every supplier the government uses, has an environmental impact. "Right now, the data around that is not tracked," he says, pointing out green issues are gaining traction with the public. "In the future, the public may say: We won't stand for this anymore. We want to ensure we know what every service organization in government is doing to the environment."