At Delta Airlines, SOA is cutting the cost of ownership by half for its various applications and systems. That's good news, of course, but the company's experience with proactive governance also provides some valuable pointers for other companies wrestling with the politics of SOA.
Delta's SOA has been under development for more than 10 years and is now its third phase, says Bret Martin, principal enterprise architecture for Delta Technology Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Delta Airlines.
In a session (registration required) at a recent online conference put on by Tibco, Martin said that phase one of what the airline calls its "Digital Nervous System," or DNS, commenced with proprietary and home-grown integration hooks in 1996. As SOA and Web services evolved earlier this decade, Delta focused on bringing DNS in line with industry standards such as SOAP over HTTP, delivered through an enterprise service bus at the back end.
Now, in the latest phase of the effort, the goal is to see that "SOA is infused with the enterprise," Martin related. "SOA is a way of life for implementing business applications across the enterprise."
The greatest value Delta is seeing from SOA is reuse of IT assets and data, Martin pointed out. "Reuse is one of the big drivers for our SOA environment," he said. Delta's SOA, for example, is reusing the same customer and operational data across a range of systems, from the Delta.com Website to ticketing kiosks to ticketing counters and gate systems. "It allows check-in to happen in a uniform way," he explained. Another way services are being leveraged are by exposing services to vendors and partners, such as American Express or operations companies.
Delta engaged a cross-enterprise governance team to perform all the tasks that are expected from an SOA governance group: managing registry and repository in making sure that services are registered, defining the policies that are going to go into the deployment of a service, defining security, defining service-level agreements.
However, Delta recognized the value that the governance team was bringing beyond merely approving, registering, and managing services, Martin says. "Its not only registering services, but also trying to promote services that we already have defined, and have already put into production." This is essential, he said, because developers and architects aren't necessarily aware of what services are available out there, or where they can be found.
"What we needed is a governance organization that says they can help, 'here is a SOA business process, and is is how it can be implemented," says Martin. "Having a group that stands in front of those services, and matches business requirements to the services that we have… is a huge benefit."