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“SOA can help bridge the gap between IT and business”

Dan Powers VP, Worldwide SOA Sales, IBM Software Group talks to Dominic K about Service oriented Architecture (SOA) and how organisations should approach one of the most hyped up IT architectures.

Dan Powers

A recent study by Springboard Research reported India to be the fastest growing SOA market in Asia with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 49 percent from 2006 to 2009. What according to you is the factor behind such high adoption of SOA in India?

There are a couple of answers to that question. One is the rate at which Indian companies are growing, the scale of growth that we see in Indian finance, telecommunication, manufacturing is breath taking compared to other places around the world. There is also very strong entrepreneurial spirit in India coupled with an incredibly talented people that look at and analyse which are the best possible solutions that can complement that kind of organisational growth better.

When we talk to a CEO they ask pretty strong questions that are relevant to their organisation. Some of the questions are regarding the high rate of growth. With high speed growth comes high customer service with a world class supply chain. During acquisitions, things needs to be executed and merged at the speed of light and integrated with the people processes such as customer information and data.

When we look around the world, we need to analyse what kind of architectural style can support that bridge between IT and business the best. That is when Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) pops to the top. The other part is that India also holds a large set of system integrators and they are executing projects around the world in every single vertical. This further complements adoption in India.

SOA is a process, a journey rather than a mere product off the shelf. How should SOA concept be approached?

Well, until now have around 3,000 engagements around the world. Most customers prefer to start from the business side while some kickstart the process from the IT side. We can see them start from different areas and with different approaches. One of the areas could be customer service to give the right answer to the right question, on time without any delay.

One of the other areas is to integrate the large amount of data in any company. Another area is the connectivity layer. Various departments write applications on different languages. The ideal way will be to connect all their applications using a connectivity layer at the enterprise level. We have some standard way of establishing such connectivity and hence want to buy some connectors from the industry. This is where technologies such as Enterprise Serial Bus (ESB) come into play.

The next area revolves around what I call reuse i.e. how do we set up and establish a policy of reuse for the organisation, how do we do service design and creation within the company so that people process information can be reused on connectivity.

As the organisation passes through time it should self analyse as to how the project can be executed using Service Oriented Architecture. Learn from it and then replicate it as they go on for other project. Once this is done then I believe applications can be completed in days if not in months.

Are there concrete reasons for organisations to adopt SOA?

A concrete reason will be to reduce the frustration between business and IT today. So the CEO will come up and ask for various details of business and other parameters. IT truly wants to support the business wherever possible. IT wants to be the hero to do that and SOA makes it possible. SOA is an architectural style. It can bridge IT and business.

What are the various hurdles in implementing SOA?

A lot of hurdles we see are not on the technological side but on the cultural side of the organisation that is doing the implementation. Many companies do not have a policy of reuse. Many lack a policy of shared services. So SOA in a way allows organisations to take a step back and say there are better ways to spend money on IT, the system that forms the supporting pillars of the business.

Organisations need to think of proper governance within the company. They need to think about shared services and policy of reuse as well.

What are the trends and advantages you observe from SOA?

A lot of people use the term reuse all the time. But, I feel reuse is something that happens as they get more sophisticated in using SOA. Obviously SOA will help to reduce costs in IT infrastructure. It can help standardise and connect applications to data. It can help share services which everybody can use, and which will again help save cost.

What are the best practices to be followed on the design principles, patterns, and techniques organisations should follow for SOA?

I think what differentiates IBM from other companies is mainly experience. We have been involved with SOA for well over three years as a company, starting way back when Web services started. We have made the experience from our engagements available for best practices at www.ibm.com/soa. This offers an online platform for customers to assess SOA.

We are investing about a billion dollars a year on our software technology around SOA. We developed a sound portfolio and what we call service oriented foundation products. Finally what gives us the advantage is our support and commitments to open standards. Use of open source is very important in service oriented architecture.

We have been very involved and upfront in this area to build various Web services standards that you around today. We are also taking keen interest in various up coming and emerging standards such Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) as well as service component architecture.