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Business Transformation in Action

Joe McKendrick

SOA in One Concise Sentence

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ebizQ's Peter Schooff challenged readers and community members to come up with a single sentence that would describe service oriented architecture.

A lot of interesting responses resulted, and I'll share some here. My own contribution was a one-line, tweetable definition, "App store for enterprise," (24 characters, btw).

Here's a longer explanation:

Steve Jobs' business model presents an interesting and organized way to 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, an industry visionary and fellow contributor here at ebizQ, has been exploring the idea of the app store model for some time, and how its shaping our perceptions of how a software delivery system should function.

In fact, SOA infrastructures have even been compared to Apple's iTunes service, in which users pick and choose from an organized directory, knowing that everything in the service is compatible, ready to plug into a framework, and nothing will break in the process.

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.

The idea of an external 'app store' or service marketplace has been experimented with over the years, but has had mixed results. Perhaps such an internal capability will help smooth the way for the buying, selling and trading of services.

Peter Kretzman, however, disagrees with this idea. Here's what he posted in the ebizQ interactive forum:

"SOA is nowhere close to an 'app store for the enterprise.' It's plumbing, not faucets. There is no 'app store for the enterprise' per se: that's a holy grail that's been sought for decades now. SOA is a mindset, a way of creating bunches of loosely coupled individual programmatic services that can be combined into applications. The notion of 'app store' implies that an SOA service is standalone (it's not, for the most part), or that users can mix and match and update them on their own (they might to some small degree, but most applications will still require planning, architecting, design, build, test, and deployment.)"

Other one-sentence SOA definitions include the following:

  • "The idea of SOA is something like Googling, with human-readable response replaced by computer-readable, and intelligent request support by GSB (Global Service Bus)." -Peter Brand
  • "A buffet spread (as against a la carte, custom integration) for all applications. Help yourself to what you like, and what works for you."  -Jaisundar V
  • "Like a restaurant: Service Providers, Service Consumers and standard integration mechanism." -Avi Ronsenthal
What's your one-sentence way to describe SOA?  Do you agree that it's an 'app store' in some form, or that it's more of the plumbing? We know you have some good descriptors, join in on the discussion!

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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