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The Merriam Webster online dictionary defines an ecosystem as "the complex of a community of organisms and its environment functioning as an ecological unit." An ecosystem is a system whose members benefit from each other's participation via symbiotic relationships.

The term, which was first used to describe self-sustaining systems, has its roots in biology but has now been adopted in business and technology. For example, a software ecosystem is set of businesses functioning as a unit and interacting with a shared market for software and services. The symbiotic relationships among the businesses are frequently underpinned by a common technological platform that allows a seamless exchange of information, resources, and artifacts.

The convergence of the cloud and SOA was bound to happen. Several independent events have led up to this perfect union. First, the emergence of the cloud as a viable business and innovation platform that is evident from the sheer number of vendors proclaiming "cloud" products and services and the widescale adoption of the cloud by many Fortune 500 companies and even the U.S. Federal government.

Second, the economic downturn has brought cost cutting initiatives, frugality, and operational efficiency back in fashion. Third, SOA, although undoubtedly a superior architectural style, has struggled to remain mainstream in the eyes of the business beyond the notion of "improving reusability" -- so much so that many technology pundits were even questioning whether SOA was dead!

Yes, the convergence of the cloud and SOA was bound to happen. As if the above events were not enough to bring them together, SOA and the cloud have a shared objective: improving the alignment of IT and business with the goal of justifying current and future IT investments, improving IT responsiveness to business change, and increasing operational efficiency. Both the cloud and SOA move the IT function beyond managing applications and infrastructure into a partnership with the business to provide agile solutions to solve dynamic business problems.

The convergence of the cloud and SOA goes beyond just simple alignment of common needs or shared objectives. It is a true symbiotic relationship where SOA fulfills the basic need of the cloud of an application architecture that aligns with and can support its own virtualized, multi-tenant, elastic being.


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