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Is There Such a Thing as "SOA-in-a-Box"?

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From Scott Morrison of Layer 7 Technologies: Can you purchase SOA from a vendor? What about open source projects like Mule? Is it possible--or even advisable--to get everything you need for SOA from a single source? Would the answer be different if the company was a startup as opposed to a large, established company with significant legacy investment?

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  • You can't purchase SOA. It's a philosophy, a methodology, a way of doing. You can start SOA today without investing any money on anything (except your time). It is possible to get all of your tooling and resources for SOA from a single vendor, but the beauty of SOA is that components built around SOA are interchangeable, regardless of vendor. (In theory, at least...)

  • I would agree that you cannot purchase SOA as so many vendors and open source projects are claiming to be SOA this and SOA that that it's an impossible task. Many vendors claim to provide a 'full SOA Suite', however, this will generally tie you into 'their' suite for life which is what many organizations don't want. I understood that one of the values of SOA was that you could pick and choose best of breed products, however, this is only possible if the products are interoperable which only occurs if they use standard technologies. There are many fine pieces of SOA technology out there from large and small vendors that do use standards and allow you to pick and choose. My view is that no one company does everything well so you are better picking the 'best of breed' technologies from various vendors when those products will interoperate with each other. Buying from one vendor may give a warm and fuzzy but generally will tie you into that vendor in some way.

  • I'm going to offer a contrarian view today and say, "Yes, there is such as thing as SOA-in-a-box."

    Now, it has nothing to do with tooling, but I do believe it's possible for someone to provide a complete business service abstraction either as a design document or as a set of implemented software components, that encompasses an entire vertical or part of a vertical.

    Indeed, as businesses begin to consider revamping their ERP and CRM efforts, they should consider one of the features of the future solution to be delivering the SOA for the business.

  • This is an argument for purists.

  • SOA "in a box" is an oxymoron - there wouldn't be a need for service-orientation, or the discipline of SOA if you were basically handed a complete stack. And we wouldn't have much to talk about here (or do, for that matter)!

  • SOA in a box is possible in only one case - if the box is somebody's 'brain box'. SOA is an architectural style and a mindset. You can buy it,... if you can.

    One can buy tools usefull for SOA implementation ( I do not think that ESB is one of them while registry/repository may be useful). However, the tool may be used for any other needs and SOA will be fine without it.

    To find what you need for SOA, you have to start with SOA itself and with your company's business model.

    Instead of buying SOA, we can buy a Service (if we use it in SOA, so be it, but using a service does not constitutute realisation of SOA in your organisation). In this context, I agree with JP "...it's possible for someone to provide a complete business service abstraction either as a design document or as a set of implemented software components, that encompasses an entire vertical or part of a vertical". For example, a SaaS provider creates an Accont Payable system and offers it as a financial service - here is nothing new; your organisation, which is purely process-oriented, uses this Service as an element of several bookkeeping processes. Everything’s fine but you have not bought SOA, you have bought the results of Service executions.

  • NO!

    Unless you count this amusing eBay offering from december 2006: http://www.ebizq.net/blogs/bda/ebay_box_of_soa.gif

    • Well I guess that settles it -- it turns out SOA does come in a box. For about $500, not a bad price.

      Maybe Steve Jobs will get wind of this and produce his own iSOA device, with links to downloadable iServices at 99 cents a pop.

  • My understanding of SOA is that it is an architecture (a "style" if you will) that promotes flexibility, agility and freedom. How could that be put in a "box"? To me "SOA-in-a-Box" is a vendor marketing term.

    Even the great Steve Jobs can't build an SOA-in-a-Box, he can however build/sell a SOA implementation in a little box.

  • SOA in a Box is like saying an 'Enterprise in a Box'. I agree with John above, that it is more of an oxymoron. If things were so simple or small in scale, SOA would not exist as a concept in the first place.

    The premise behind the whole value proposition of SOA being that it helps you rationalize the complex ecosystems that enterprises work within so there is more reuse, standardization and commonality. Agree with all who suggested that it's a mindset or an approach, less to do with tools or technologies in the purest sense.

    Having said that, the execution over time will require one to use some notional 'boxes' - probably a box that contains the methodology and architecture framework, a 'box' with some decision making guides, a 'box' with SOA training material for Business and IT execs and operators, and then some boxes with tools and technologies - ESB, Registry, Rules engine, Monitoring etc etc.

    So while there is no such thing as 'SOA in a Box', there is a possibility of getting the ingredients that make SOA possible in boxes and using them to guide the journey towards service enablement..

  • I agree with most that SOA can not come in a box, though I do think there's a real benefit to selecting some SOA "tools" that can come from a "SOA-in-a-Box". Whether it be foundational services, business modeling, or other resources, they are merely tools that need actual implementation with good SOA methodology (ie - enterprise reuse, governance and alignment with the business) to be an SOA.

    Perhaps it'd be better to say "SOA Toolkit" - hinting that there's some building and work needed to get results.

  • A SOA in a box product is like a kitchen. You can use a kitchen to make a gourmet meal or you can use it to make inedible garbage. It is only a tool that enables the desired result.

  • SOA in a box implies a techology solution that you can purchase off the shelf from a vendor and just plug it into your network. Unfortunately, since SOA is more of an approach rather than a specific technology solution, a nice, succinct package to implement SOA does not exist. Yes, there are lots of SOA technology tools that can help an organization move towards a SOA environment, but tools are often chosen without doing the analysis to really understand what the business process and functional needs of the organization are. Having a solid governance plan and structure is also critical to enable the shift from systems to services. That shift usually requires some retraining and rethinking by planners, decision makers, developers and end users. SOA is more than just an IT solution. Some may even call it a religious philosophy, which certainly explains the evangelists.

  • Given that SOA is an architectural style rather than a product, SOA-in-a-box might be an extreme but an SOA framework can come very close to a "box" if it meets the following criteria:

    * Provide a comprehensive methodology from inception to retirement. The methodology should describe the method for defining an SOA in terms of a set of building blocks
    show how the building blocks fit together.

    * Provide a common vocabulary

    * Include a list of recommended standards

    * Provide guidance on implementation patterns

    * Provide a comprehensive set of "starter" models, templates, samples, best practices, and project management related artifacts.

    * Contain a prescriptive recommendation of a set of tools and compliant products that can be used to implement the building blocks.

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    My view: SOA in a box not buyable (see reasons above... architecture...), but what about SOA Infrastructure in a box? Where SOA Infrastructure stands for a combination of scalable HW infrastructure with SOA enabling middleware software stack.

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