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*Editor’s note: This article was first published in the Fall ebizQ Buyer’s Guide print edition, a supplement to the Business Integration Journal.

One of the primary benefits touted by SOA proponents is the alignment of business with technology. Clearly this should apply equally to the management of SOA deployments as to any other part of the SOA lifecycle and in fact, it can be argued that management is the most important component when it comes to this alignment. Used correctly, SOA management can facilitate the cost effective deployment of new business relationships, the efficient use of existing IT investments and can measure the real value to the organization of SOA itself.

Is SOA management different?

The move to Service Oriented Architecture is the latest step away from the world of isolated applications with limited connectivity. In the SOA world, the enterprise solves new business challenges by combining existing IT assets rather than building afresh: An SOA-based solution consists predominantly of business process definitions which use services already provided by existing applications, and its definition resides outside of any individual application. As a consequence, the number and value of messages flowing between applications increases rapidly as applications and processes must exchange more information and the information exchanged must be richer. Finally, the SOA world is designed to accommodate a much higher level of incremental change reflecting new business requirements.

All of this is quite fundamentally different from the world for which traditional application management or network management platforms are originally designed, and SOA management tools need to reflect this. Obviously, this does not mean that we simply abandon the traditional concerns of network management. Instead, the role of management shifts beyond monitoring of connectivity and associated quality of service as is the case with many network management tools to include the information and business processes built on top of the technology levels of the middleware stack.

While it easy to understand how the SOA world is different to the world of application silos, it should be recognized that the concept of application integration is hardly new as Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) products have been in use since the late 1990s. Therefore aren’t these management challenges already understood and solved? In answering this, it must first be acknowledged that many of the concepts and even software that is being used for SOA management started life within the EAI domain. However, EAI and SOA are fundamentally different in approach and SOA with its focus on architecture, leveraging of modern standards and product independence, more than anything, seems actually to deliver on many of the promises that EAI could not.


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