August 23, 2005, 10:24 AM — This week's highlighted research:
Forrester Research. "Your path to service-oriented architecture."
Patricia Seybold Group. "SOA--all over again."
Burton Group. "Vantage point 2005-2006 SOA reality check."
Somewhere, in some little room in Silicon Valley, there's a guy who sits around all day and makes up three-letter abbreviations for technology and management platforms. If he ever retires, I want his job. The three-letter phrase I'm thinking of today is SOA, or Service-Oriented Architecture. A buzz word if I ever heard one, but it bears looking at. Briefly, SOA is a design practice that promotes re-use and interoperability through a set of XML standards and specifications.
It sounds like a great idea of course, but as with most such great ideas, there are stumbling blocks. Forrester's free report takes an in-depth look at making an SOA investment, and notes that the biggest initial roadblock is just the confusion that surrounds it, created by vendors jockeying for position. Forrester outlines six paths to SOA, providing the caveat that your mileage may vary -- SOA isn't a cookie-cutter architecture. Nonetheless, an SOA strategy with focused objectives and a defined path will yield some business benefits in the long run.
Forrester points out that before even embarking on a plan, you should consider the initial reasons for deploying an SOA platform. The initial focus is likely to vary widely between companies, or even between departments. Understanding what is driving the need for SOA is key to planning and prioritizing the SOA investment.
Patricia Seybold Group accurately notes that SOA is actually entering its second life. Patty says that the current uses of SOA, which are primarily integration, adding application functionality, and building new service-oriented applications, are only the first stage. In the long term, Seybold's report notes that SOA will move the IT organization away from traditional application development, and more towards delivering an IT instantiation of a business scenario. This is indeed a marvelous development; the magical kingdom of SOA will actually work towards eliminating the priesthood of IT and bringing it directly in line with the business end of things. How many times in your company have you heard the all-too-common complaints that (1) business doesn't understand the nature of IT; and (2) IT doesn't understand the nature of business? SOA overcomes this and breaks down that wall.