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Business Ecology Initiative & Service-Oriented Solution

Michael Poulin

Service-Oriented Enterprise coveted

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"Leveraging the Next Generation SOA Ideas for Service Oriented Enterprises (SOEs)" by Pethuru Cheliah is an article published recently in The SOA Magazine. For the last year, more and more authors turn to the topic of SOE because it becomes more and more obvious that service orientation is the most natural way of the business evolution. Yes, it is not a typo, I said 'the business evolution' rather than IT evolution and we will talk about it in this post a bit later. For now, I would only like to highlight that the term SOE may be easily obfuscated (as, for example, term Web Service was earlier) by incompetent external views on the subject (see 'Enterprise Architecture with IEEE 1471: out-in-out view').

When I read the article, especially the first pages before the section 'Establishing the Service Oriented enterprises (SOEs)', I was amaised with so good English language; it is not a usual quality in technical articles, you know... The language occupied my attention and, initially, I did not put much attention on small disconnections and misconceptions like:

• "The mantra of every customer-facing business in this planet is to do more with less." This sounds wonderful but relatively naïve: the mantra of the majority of businesses is to 'make' more with less;
• "Executives and entrepreneurs have a crystal-clear vision for their endeavors and establishments." I think this is still an idealistic dream. If the executives and entrepreneurs had such a vision, the enterprises, together with their IT departments, would avoided a lot of economical and technical problems
• "...the emergence of business technologies such as SOA." I tried Wikipedia, Webopedia and Google to find what the term 'business technology' stands for, but I was not lucky. Nobody knows but many use. This is a dangerous Babylon syndrome. Anyway, SOA is not a technology in any means, i.e. the phrase does not make much sense
• "...management of IT infrastructures and services through the two core technologies: virtualization and automation" I am very interested to learn since when virtualization and automation became technologies. Indeed, from IT, everything looks like a technology
• "The process-centricity of SOA enables to segregate process description (model) and the underlying implementation." Well, for the last 15 years I deal with service orientation, I never heard that SOA is process centric; on a contrary, service-oriented architecture is assumed to be service centric, isn't it? Also, it is a new feature of SOA to me - segregation of "process description (model) and the underlying implementation". Every day we learn something new...

I would be just happy if these five bullet-points were the only ones that scratched my attention. The real problems, in my opinion, came in the section 'Establishing Service Oriented Enterprises (SOEs)'. My background in IT and it is a shame that may colleagues who are well educated and culture-possessing people like Mr. Pethuru Cheliah cannot see the wood behind trees when they talk about Enterprise. You know, Folks, IT is not a centre of Universe and technical view on many things may be simply inadequate. Enterprise is the entire organisation where IT department may or may not have its place. According to Mr. Pethuru Cheliah, "A SOE is an organization that has embraced the service oriented approach as its long-term strategy for ... managing information resources.", which I cannot agree at all because it is a very 'boxed' and subjective view. SOE is about the enterprise Business, which operates on the principles of service orientation to reach flexibility in adopting business changes (see the observation of SOE definitions in 'Ladder to SOE'). Such Business may have its own information resources or may lease them and move no finger to manage them. IT alone cannot transform an enterprise into SOE does not matter what does it do.

The next sentence in the same article's paragraph is even more outrageous: "The difference is that SOA focuses on development while SOE incorporates SOA as the foundation for seamlessly aligning IT systems, data, applications and services with the evolving business sentiments." If SOA - the architecture - focuses on development, it is not SOA. SOA, by definition, does not deal with development because architecture is about WHAT/WHY/WHO, not about HOW. SOE incorporates SOA for its business needs, first of all. To reach status of SOE, an enterprise must pass through the series of transformations and technical transformations certainly yield to the organisational, management and cultural ones. If IT systems, data, applications and services are not aligning with the business in the first place, it is not SOE.

The "SOE realization methodology" illustrated in the article on Figure 5 is fundamentally wrong. It only confirms that the wood of Enterprise is not seen through the trees of IT. It is impossible to 'Plan-Produce-Perform' and, vous-a-la, you get SOE; the transition is a multi-cycled multi-iterative process (I have counted up to 21 steps at the high level only). That is, SOE is an organisational model of the enterprise, service orientation is its fundamental principle and SOA is a methodology the enterprise's Business and Technical Architecture are constructed and operate on. Services in SOE, in tern, are business services combining automated and manual business activities, they are not necessary software modules.

The business orientation of SOE puts certain constraints on the usability of technical methods and instruments. For example, technical integration system such as ESB with its mediating role does not fit in its current form with business services: it is impossible to imagine any business activities when the actors - consumers and services/providers - do not know about each other and do not have preliminary agreements on the service business functionality and Real World Effect. Another example is Cloud Computing - serious companies do not delegate their mission-critical applications to Clouds not because they do not believe into the professionalism of the IT people serving Clouds but because modern Clouds do not provide for business visibility into such applications. So far, the only form of Clouds acceptable for Business is private or dedicated PaaS and SaaS.

To summarise, I have to say that IT has to stop missing the point and, when talking about or working toward Service-Oriented Enterprise, IT has to take the exclusively business-centric viewpoint. Such approach is entirely in line with SOA as OASIS defines it situating between Business and Technology and absorbing the specifics of both sides.

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Thanks for the great article here. I was searching for something like that for quite a long time and at last I have found it here. I hope to see more such nice articles in the nearest future too. Thanks!

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In this blog, Michael Poulin writes about business and technology ideas, concepts, methodologies and solutions leading to service-oriented enterprise, the primary instrument for obtaining business objectives in fast-changing environments.

Michael Poulin

Michael Poulin is an enterprise-level solution architect working in the financial industry in the U.K. and the United States.

He specializes in building bridges between business needs and technology capabilities with emphasis on business and technical efficiency, scalability, robustness and manageability. He writes about service orientation, application security and use of modern technologies for solving business problems. He contributes to OASIS SOA standards as an independent member and is listed in the the international "Who's Who of Information Technology" for 2001. View more


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