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Editor's note: Hear Dave Linthicum speak on the convergence of cloud and SOA at our SOA in Action Virtual Conference. Learn more here.



While there are many attempts to fix the badly broken IT architectures within our enterprises, most "solutions" just put another technology layer on top of the existing technologies in hopes that the technology will somehow fix the issues. As you may have guessed, it just makes things more complex. Few enterprises are willing to take the risk and address the core issues.

Service-oriented architecture, or SOA, is really about fixing existing architectures by addressing most of the major systems as services, and abstracting those services into a single domain where they are formed into solutions. Simple in concept -- and really nothing new -- SOA is our best approach to fixing the broken architectures. With the wide use of standards such as Web services, SOA is being promoted as the best way to bring architectural agility to your enterprise, that is, if you do SOA correctly. There is no magic bullet here.

SOA is a valid approach to solve many of the architectural problems that enterprises face today. However, those who implement SOA typically look at SOA as something you buy, not something you do. Thus many SOA projects are again about purchasing some technology that is sold as "SOA-in-a-box," which turns out to be in a box, but not SOA, and thus only adds to the problems.

SOA, as the "A" implies, is architecture. And thus it is the orderly arrangement of systems that best serve service needs of the business. Taken in its literal context, enterprise IT can succeed with SOA. However, most do not succeed and much of that failure is due to the fact that the SOA implementers view SOA as something other than architecture, and most often those implementers are not architects.

SOA is a valid architectural pattern and you need to look at SOA as a journey -- not a project, and clearly not a product. At the same time you need to break SOA down into small, incremental successes, which also move the enterprise toward the core value proposition of SOA, which become even more powerful when leveraged with emerging concepts such as cloud computing.

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