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ebizQ's Business Agility Watch


The Current State of SOA Adoption: Forrester Explains

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Editor's Note: Anyone interested in where SOA is at today and where it's going in the future must attend ebizQ's upcoming SOA in Action Virtual Conference coming this November 19th. Sign up right here.

What follows is my podcast with Randy Heffner, the Vice President and Analyst for Forrester Research. Randy explains the current state of SOA adoption, gives an overview of Web Oriented Architecture, and offers a glimpse at what will be covered at ebizQ's upcoming SOA in Action Virtual Conference, where Randy will be the keynote speaker.

Listen to or download the 8:17 podcast below:

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Where would you say SOA adoption is within the industry today?

It is mainstream. And Forrester survey data says that among the largest firms, 80% are using SOA or will be by the end of this year. If you look more broadly, 70% of large businesses and nearly half of small to medium businesses are into SOA. And more importantly, those are using SOA are by and large satisfied.

So for three years running, about 70% of current users have said they'll do more SOA and only 1% or 2% will cut back. You don't get a large consensus doing more of something unless it's working. But lastly, we at Forrester take a strategic view of SOA so we ask about it. And strategic use of SOA has kept growing over the past three years to where now 44% of large businesses say they use SOA for strategic business transformation and that's important stuff. So SOA is alive and well and I talk to successful SOA users all the time.

That definitely sounds pretty widespread to me. There seems to have been some resistance to SOA's complexity. Can you tell me a little bit about Web Oriented Architecture as well as REST versus SOA?

Yeah, that's very interesting question because when you get into Web Oriented or WOA as some call it and REST versus SOA, you get into some critical differences between those who are most successful with SOA and those who struggle with it because SOA is fundamentally about application and business design concepts not communication protocols.

And if you get people focused and wrapped around the technology, then they're focusing on the wrong things. So you get many that equate SOA with the SOAP-based WS-* stack and successful firms focus first on service design concepts and they may have multiple protocols for accessing their services.

So the right question here really is REST or WOA versus SOAP. And they're clearly scenarios where the lighter weight REST or WOA approaches are beneficial but the biggest limitation with them is that there's no industry standard interoperability profiles for high quality of service with REST and WOA. And the specifications themselves like with REST doesn't allow for as much specificity in the grammar, if you will, of writing the interface to a service.

But with this quality of service issue, if you want security, reliability with REST, there are ways to do that and common ways to do that but not industry standards ways to do it so the ecosystem doesn't develop as broadly. And much of the WS-* complexity is specifically is to accomplish high quality of service and much of that is being hidden behind frameworks and tools. And you got to have quality of service for mission-critical applications. So there's a place in the world for both SOAP, and REST, and WOA.

Well, that makes a lot of sense. Now, are the best approaches to SOA based on architecture and governance, or are they based on technologies?

Architecture and governance period. And this question relates to so it continues with the discussion about much of the discussion about WOA and I'll toss SOA, we need to do WOA. Really, it's about developers wanting to, in essence, bypass good governance and simply do stand-alone, rapid application development.

Its like, give me some stuff that I can do. And that's -- yeah, you want successful rapid development but the problem with it is that in the world of building software to run a major business. There are no more standalone applications or at least it's very dangerous to assume that you got standalone application so one of the key design principles for successful SOA is that you're building over time a coherent portfolio of services that embody your business capabilities. And this runs counter to much of the industry discussion that you'll hear about SOA that's sort of operates on a philosophy of, well, we're just letting developers create what they will and drop it in a registry and hope that other developers will go looking at the services and discover something useful.

And you'll hear that sort of theme a lot in connection with the WOA discussion. Let's make things easy, quick, fast. But it's a haphazard approach and it doesn't build a coherent business over time. So it's the focus on planning out what is that portfolio of major services that we need and that's about architecture, that's about governance, but it can be onerous if you do too much architecture, and to misgovernance in a heavy weight sort of way.

So the right thing is to evolve your architecture, and your governance, and your organizational culture a bit at a time to find the right balance and that's what helps you build a strategic SOA foundation over time.

Now where will a strategic SOA foundation let you go in the future?

First, let me sharpen one point about strategic SOA because many in the industry have what I like to call a "flat model of services". I mean to them, a service is a service, is a service. Just put them all in the registry for people to search on. But it's much better to realize that in terms a strategic business value, some services are better and more valuable than others.

So Forrester's taxonomy for high-level taxonomy for services has three kinds of services. Infrastructure services at the bottom, which are sort of technical utilities functions, and then applications services, which are largely integration, focused types of services to connect directly between siloed applications that you might have, and then business services.

Business services and embody your organizations, major business transactions and capabilities. They're things that business people care about as they design your business processes like submit orders, or convert accounts, or get customer history, or whatever it might be. A step in a business process, basically.

And when you have a strategic portfolio of SOA-based business services, now here's where you can build on this, you can go somewhere because you got a foundation now for continuous business optimization because in some sense the design of your business, your major business capabilities are directly reflected in your software with your strategic business service layer.

So now, you can by monitoring those services, much more easily monitor business activity, look for patterns, events that mean you need to take business action. You're doing a business thing. More business monitoring and improvement based on what's flowing in and out, the request in and out of your major business services. So now, you can build on top of these services using technologies like Business Process Management, business rules, event processing that instrument your business and find, and more importantly, quickly implement ways to make your business run even better.

And if you can continually and incrementally improve your business, then you have a very good chance of continually outmaneuvering your competition. And this is the type of SOA-based vision and strategy that we'll talk about during my session on November 19.

Well, l'm certain everybody's looking forward to it. And I also want to make sure that anyone who has a question, make sure that you signup for the SOA in Action Virtual Conference and make sure you ask the question so Randy can answer it during the conference.

ebizQ’s expert blog team covers a broad range of BPM, business integration, business analytics/monitoring, collaboration, content and related issues.

Peter Schooff

Peter Schooff is Contributing Editor at ebizQ, and manager of the ebizQ Forum. Contact him at pschooff@techtarget.com

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