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Business Transformation in Action

Joe McKendrick

Steve's Business Model: SOA as the 'App Store'

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With all the new excitement swirling around Steve Jobs' and company's latest entry into the market, the iPad, perhaps its time to sit back and think about Steve's business model as it relates to the way we acquire services and content. That is, the idea that applications (or services or whatever) are sitting out there in a common catalog, ready for use anytime you need it and send a few dollars/euros/pounds/rupees their way.

Dion Hinchcliffe, also a contributor here at ebizQ, published some thoughts about the app store model and how its shaping our perceptions of how a software delivery system should function.

That is, the app store supports an ecosystem of developers and creators, but acts as a governance mechanism to make sure the crappy and malicious stuff doesn't degrade and contaminate the ecosystem. Apple and Amazon maintain app stores that provide a consistent and reliable source for services and software.

Sounds like the job of SOA in the enterprise, does it not?  Let's take another page from the Apple playbook and look at an analogy.

For quite some time, we have talked about the concept of accessing SOA-ready services through public online marketplaces, and how that could shake up the way we approach IT. We're seeing manifestations of this model through cloud computing.

George Ravich, in a ComputerWeekly interview, suggests SOA-based services be made available to enterprise users the way iTunes are available online, ready to plug into a framework. "the SOA service catalog promises to have the same impact on enterprise computing as the iTunes playlist has had on listening to music."

SOA application lists should provide services -- such as customer authentication -- that can be plugged into a company's "playlist." As Ravich illustrates:

"Prior to the iPod, people listened to songs on a vinyl record or a CD in the order that the publisher determined. If you wanted to play several songs from different albums, it was a complicated and time-consuming activity,. Now, with an iPod, you can take the individual songs you own and create an endless number of play lists. Each song track is reusable in different settings and situations, under the full control of the listener."

"Similarly, prior to SOA, enterprise applications trapped business processes within inflexible workflows. Without extensive IT development the reuse of any single business process became unfeasible within these systems, leading to multiple versions of the same process being developed separately for different applications and channels."

There you have it. Steve Jobs has been thinking SOA all along, he just hasn't said it. Perhaps the SOA world needs a Steve Jobs-like visionary to package and sell SOA in such a fashion. Or, perhaps, we've already been doing it all along -- without all the pizazz and hoopla.


In this blog (formerly known as "SOA in Action"), Joe McKendrick examines how BPM and related business and IT approaches can promote business transformation.

Joe McKendrick

Joe McKendrick is an author and independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. View more

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