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SOA Integration: Defined, Refined and Combined with BPM for Maximum Business Agility


Complete Transcript: The Business Process Expert Community and the Future of BPM

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Replay Quinton Wall's 1:46 answer to this question: "What's the best way to involve the line-of-business stakeholders in an integration project?"

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Gian TrottaGian Trotta: Welcome to an ebizQ podcast. I'm your host, ebizQ's Gian Trotta. With us today is Quinton Wall, the Sr. Product Marketing Manager at BEA Systems. He's responsible for the strategy, positioning, messaging, and long-term product vision for BEA's SOA Integration solutions. Quinton has won awards for his work, including the Technical Leadership award by The New England Business and Technology Association; the best automotive website, awarded by the Profnet Institute; and one of the top 10 intranet sites in the world as judged by the prestigious Norman Neilson Group.

More Resources

BEA's Arch2Arch SOA Integration page

BEA s Business Integration Resource Center

On-Line webinar -- Business Agility: Taming the Challenges of SOA Integration Replay

Quinton now consistently provides global and enterprise clients industry-leading integration technology. His approach includes a pragmatic, proven approach to SOA, and a high level of customer service while leveraging his deep technical experience to ensure repeatable, long-term success.

BEA's SOA Integration portfolio simplifies efforts to solve integration challenges by providing a flexible, standards-based infrastructure to rapidly connect applications, processes, and data sources into re-usable services. It enables businesses to blend new and existing technologies to deliver flexibility, reliability and scalability to the enterprise. You can find out more about BEA's integration solution at http://www.bea.com/businessintegration.

Welcome, Quinton and thanks for taking time from a busy schedule to join us.

Quinton WallQuinton Wall: Good morning; I'm happy to be here.

GT: And we're happy to have you. Quinton, I think many of us understand SOA now, and we definitely understand "integration," but what exactly is "SOA Integration"?

QW: It's about producing tangible results -- the solution simplifies the effort to integrate all your systems, applications, and data sources to get tangible results.

Previous attempts to solve integration challenges have used code, EAI techniques, or piece-meal approaches that just haven't produced the kind of results that can drive a business forward, and it often means the business keeps looking for something that makes it agile and ready for change.

For example, upgrading something as ordinary as PeopleSoft to a newer version can be traumatic - all the business logic has to be redone, and it may use a different interface or data format.

GT: How does one avoid this pitfall?

SOA offers an alternative. One of the lessons learned in IT is that SOA helps to drive IT innovation and keep things flexible, while reducing risk and cutting costs. SOA Integration, for example, takes these lessons to the next level, to make better, more innovative use of your existing IT assets by transforming them into services that can then be shared and reused across the enterprise.

SOA Integration really provides a flexible, standards-based framework for enabling services, data, and events, and connecting them to better align with business requirements. It supports key integration patterns that allow IT managers and IT architects to aggregate, orchestrate, and mediate these services. This can accelerate IT responsiveness to address or meet constant business changes, which we know are not slowing down anytime soon.

GT: What are the added bonuses?

QW: While SOA by itself encompasses enablement and governance as well as the organizational aspects of your business, SOA Integration adds data services and the reuse of existing IT assets, and also adds new capabilities such as search, inspecting data quality, and gathering business intelligence, to support the emerging trend of Information as a Service.

GT: Quinton, what are some of the pitfalls that our listeners should watch out for with SOA?

QW: Well, like many approaches to solving problems, a fragmented approach to integration can lead to fragmented benefits. We have seen a number of patterns to watch out for and avoid, such as service-enabled spaghetti, with no common taxonomy for multiple services. It's one thing to be agile and flexible, but you don't want to go completely amuck with services - you have to operate within the constraints of policies that maintain the integrity of your business intentions.

For example, each service type needs a definition, a purpose, and a role in the integration solution architecture. You should implement a SOA Reference Architecture to define the right relationships between services as well as the right objectives for the entire SOA project. You can leverage a central repository, for example and a governance framework to control dynamic behavior with policies and gain more visibility into service usage.

GT: That question that often recurs at this point is, how do you enforce this across the enterprise?

Another example to avoid is the silo-ing of your SOA initiatives. You don't want to have an implementation that may be correct for one project but incorrect across the enterprise. What you want to have multiple projects using a common dataset, so that the benefits of SOA can be applied not just across the project but also across the organization.

You want to also start to avoid "accidental" integration, where you might have several different approaches implemented for services, applications, data and events. You should look at integration as components within a broader solution framework, to eliminate redundancies in connectivity, security, management, and quality of service (QoS).

To summarize, in order to ensure the business value of the SOA, you need to exercise the appropriate SOA governance, management, and security measures. The ability to control when, where, how, and by whom services are created, deployed, and consumed is essential for controlling that complexity, making informed SOA investment decisions, and managing change.

GT: What have you seen to be the key indicators of an SOA Integration opportunity?

QW: For many businesses, it comes down to coping with change, IT departments are the stressful position of having to balance changing business requirements with evolving regulatory requirements while keeping existing systems running, generally they just need to keep the lights on. They need to improve responsiveness to business change and to improve business agility. Business initiatives might also include increasing customer satisfaction through self-service, and reducing time to market for competitive advantage.

The central problem for IT is that today's packaged applications, as an example were built to standardize core business functions - such as finance, human relations, procurement, and customer relationship management (CRM) - but were not designed to be changed. Businesses need to innovate beyond these packaged applications to gain a competitive advantage. They need to leverage these assets, but expand their capabilities by transforming them into services in order to drive new levels of customer service, and move quickly into dynamic markets.

GT: That's understood. What are the other needs and return-on-investment requirements here?

QW: Another need is to reduce infrastructure and maintenance costs and modernize the infrastructure, especially if the skill sets are no longer available to support legacy systems. Businesses also want to improve access to information and improve data quality. Initiatives might include, say, managing a single view of the customer, or strengthening regulatory compliance. Consolidation and mergers and acquisitions can force this kind of modernization and rationalization of systems.

Enterprise assets such as existing applications represent a substantial investment in time and money by the business. To satisfy new business trends, IT departments have had to rip and replace these entire assets. Integration projects have been costly and have taken years to implement, and have also required specialized resources to realize the benefits. The SOA Integration solution, on the other hand, ensures investment protection in existing applications and infrastructure now and into the future.

You don't want integration tools that require a trade-off between ease-of-use and the ability to truly meet your integration needs with power and flexibility. You don't want rigid integration between enterprise assets, because that can cause down time, limit the ability of a business to function effectively, and require large on-going investments in time and money, and ultimately lead to lost revenues and market opportunities.

GT: It sounds like there are a number of business initiatives that may be good opportunities for SOA Integration. What's the best way to involve the line-of-business stakeholders in an integration project?

QW: First you must understand what the business objectives and priorities are, whether the business is reacting to competition, or to some regulatory threat. The goal is to link existing information technology (IT) assets in a way that supports actual business requirements for maximum return. SOA integration, when combined with business process management (BPM), offers significant business advantages. The three core capabilities - application and process service enablement, data access, and service integration - built on a powerful, business-ready infrastructure, enables businesses to accelerate their SOA deployments. And that results in greater IT agility - cost reduction, service re-use, faster time to market for services, and more agile responsiveness.

A company's business agility comes from bridging the gap between IT's infrastructure enablement and the line-of-business' focus on business processes. Line-of-business managers can leverage BPM tools with SOA for true IT and business alignment -- a collaborative, iterative approach. The trick is to enable the business side to make changes in a governed manner while reducing its reliance on IT. As businesses collaborate between departments and organizations, complexity will increase as the number of participants, services, processes and applications grows. This new level of business participation demands new enterprise security and governance requirements. Businesses, if they are to succeed in today's environment, must make collaborating smoother and more integrated with their existing infrastructures.

GT: Our listeners want to see the results before they make a leap to spend more on their SOA, what are some real examples of benefits? Both IT and business Benefits?

QW:We have many examples across all industries where SOA Integration has provided both business and IT benefits. One that comes to mind immediately is a major Latin American wireless company that was faced with the challenge of "spaghetti style" integration - as a result of a merger. Through SOA they were able to accelerate service development by 20%; reduce development costs by 15%, and accelerate online campaigns by an amazing 70%.

Another example closer to home is a major U.S. cable provider that faced increased competition and needed to bring innovative offerings to market quickly. By leveraging SOA Integration, they were able to accelerate order-to-provisioning time and improve customer loyalty by empowering 20,000 customer-service representatives with more resources, increasing the customers' content choices, and enabling self-service. These examples are typical of the business benefits directly associated with BEA's SOA Integration solution.

GT: Quinton, how is BEA's approach different in the industry today?

QW: Of all the vendors, our approach is, in a word, unified -- as part of our solution for building Dynamic Business Applications. The solution is built to last: it is based on BEA WebLogic and BEA AquaLogic technology, the most rock-solid enterprise foundation on the market today, offering superior levels of reliability, scalability, performance, and of course security.

BEA's SOA Integration solution is a fully integrated suite that is both traditional and service-oriented, and is also governance-ready for better visibility and control of your re-usable services. It uses AquaLogic Service Bus as its core backbone, and works synergistically with SOA governance to provide better visibility and control. It also works together with BPM to provide ultimate process visibility as well as IT and business alignment. Each of the SOA Integration product offerings address specific needs of the business, but as a whole they provide a unified solution that offers business benefits and business and IT alignment. This is especially important for ensuring consistent, adaptive alignment between IT-led and business-led initiatives, and to provide the fundamental building blocks for success.

GT: Quinton, if I may interrupt here, does event processing play a role? We're seeing a growing interest among our members in its fusion with SOA and BPM.

QW: It certainly does, we're finding more and more that event processing is playing an increasing part in organizations' SOA initiatives.

BEA offers high-performance real-time processing, event-driven processing, and virtualized hosting for scalability, consolidation, and cost-savings. The demand on individual services can vary with the assurance that the solution continuously and automatically adapts to these varying demands. And the solution is built on a legacy of running the most demanding enterprises' infrastructure for over 10 years. SOA is part of BEA's DNA, and BEA has been building innovative products from the ground-up with a service approach -- to address the needs of SOA and business agility.

GT: Thank you, Quinton, for an enjoyable and empowering presentation. Where can listeners go for more information?

QW: You're welcome; anytime. You can certainly go to http://www.bea.com/businessintegration, which we mentioned before, but I also recommend that you check out http://dev2dev.bea.com to download some great white papers and have a look at http://www.bea.com for a broader look at our SOA integration efforts.

GT: There you have it. I'd like to thank our guest, Quinton Wall, Senior Product Marketing Manager of BEA Systemes -- and all our listeners for their time and feedback on our podcasts. To read a transcript or ask a followup question, just point your browsers to http://www.ebizq.net/to/beapodcast1. This is Gian Trotta of ebizQ signing off.

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