Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) is a new way to marry IT and Business side of the enter Enterprise Architecture equation. The idea is that the underlying IT assets should be used in a changeable Business environment by changing the configuration of the “middle” layer that works with any IT system irrespective of its platform while delivering the changes to the business!
This is how XML.com explains SOA:
SOA is an architectural style whose goal is to achieve loose coupling among interacting software agents. A service is a unit of work done by a service provider to achieve desired end results for a service consumer. Both provider and consumer are roles played by software agents on behalf of their owners.
This sounds a bit too abstract, but SOA is actually everywhere. Let’s look at an example of SOA which is likely to be found in your living room. Take a CD for instance. If you want to play it, you put your CD into a CD player and the player plays it for you. The CD player offers a CD playing service. Which is nice because you can replace one CD player with another. You can play the same CD on a portable player or on your expensive stereo. They both offer the same CD playing service, but the quality of service is different.
And companies are betting heavily on SOA – IBM for example plans to invest $1 billion this year on SOAs. AMR says that companies employing SOAs spend less than $1 million per year on technology and 60 per cent of them will increase spending by 17% on an average this year.
How is different from Normal IT Architectures?
This is what Wikipedia says about the differences:
Unlike traditional point-to-point architectures, SOAs comprise loosely coupled, highly interoperable application services. These services interoperate based on a formal definition independent of the underlying platform and programming language (e.g., WSDL). The interface definition encapsulates (hides) the vendor and language-specific implementation. A SOA is independent of development technology (such as Java and .NET). The software components become very reusable because the interface is defined in a standards-compliant manner. So, for example, a C# (C Sharp) service could be used by a Java application.
SOA provides a methodology and framework for documenting enterprise capabilities and can support integration and consolidation activities.
There could be different configurations of systems that comprise of an SOA.. some of the most common involve Web Based Architecture. Here is one such illustration:
So is SOA the next best thing for IT? How is it going to help evolve the IT architecture world?
I believe that it places the power with the business more in terms of configuration of the process as opposed to processes being held to ransom to the constraints of system re-configs. The changes in processes and the re-alignments of the IT systems is faster using SOAs.
With the mergers and acquisitions growing rapidly and more companies using varied systems joining in.. it is imperative for FAST and reliable integration of systems to use an IT environment based on SOAs!
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