Beware vendor SOA promises

By Sandra Rossi, Computerworld Australia |  SOA

Grand plans and schemes, broken vendor promises, and the dogged determination
to commit to a long term vision - are all part of the Service Oriented Architecture
(SOA) journey.

Immature product sets along with ambitious and unrealized plans from vendors
often creates mixed results for those on the SOA journey, according to chief
information officers (CIOs) who spoke to Computerworld Australia this week about
the challenge of taking a holistic view of the enterprise.

Ebsworth and Ebsworth Lawyers began its SOA roadmap in early 2006 and expects
the bulk of its efforts to be completed by 2009.

The company's knowledge and innovation director, Lionel Bird, said IT organizations
are well on the way to abandoning siloed systems but its simply impractical
to replace current investments.

"This has led to a fundamental rethink of IT architectures. Coupled with
the need to drive innovation through the use of technology, we are being forced
to add value without ripping out legacy systems, this is where SOA comes in,"
Bird said.

Its a grand vision with the promise of great results. "But anyone that
has worked in IT for longer than 10 minutes learns not to believe every promise
made by vendors," he added.

"We know that it isn't ideal and just too expensive to manage a portfolio
of systems built with incompatible technologies and development paradigms executing
on incompatible platforms.

"So the strategy must involve improving flexibility to respond to changing
business requirements. IT must be more responsive and cost effective.

"SOA offers some promise in addressing these issues through the virtualization
of business functions into services," Bird explained.

"But people, especially lawyers, do not always work in a predictable and
process-oriented way. Business policy needs to be abstracted from applications
and different business rules."

Bird said business process management systems must simplify collaboration between
the developers, business analysts, forms designers, system architects and administrators
by creating an integrated development environment with a bi-directional flow
of information between all parties.

Because SOA enables rapid change, Bird said managing that change becomes a
governance issue and that has to be addressed through appropriate methodologies.

Ask Shepparton Council CIO, Rod Apostol, about his SOA journey and he says
it has produced "mixed results".

One of the biggest challenges Apostol faced at the Victorian-based local government
authority was selling the SOA vision to business.

"It isn't easy selling the need for integration as its not a sexy topic;
the truth is it is a hidden infrastructure cost," he said.

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