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The age of the monolithic enterprise IT structure has been over for some time -- now it's just about choosing the right nimble technology strategy. Do you attempt an SOA implementation? Do you adopt Agile methodology for internal application development? Or do you commit the unthinkable and create an unholy union of the two, giving life to "Agile SOA?"

While the development and architecture camps might seem far apart, Agile SOA isn't quite the voodoo it appears to be. Both sides have the same ultimate goal -- to enable the business to change fast. SOA provides a flexible architecture that enables IT to support business change more nimbly while Agile methods enable faster development and deployment of software. Agile methods and techniques go far beyond just building business applications. They can also evolve SOA architecture and components from the highly complex, highly risky and insanely expensive deployments they are perceived as today to something more palatable.

Agile techniques and strategies are designed to improve simplicity without sacrificing functionality or flexibility, manage risks and abate costs. But to adapt the Agile method to SOA, you need to meld the methodology to architecture -- heresy to some, but perfectly sensible to those who understand the value of Agile.

To the Laboratory!

SOA is more than an IT-only initiative. It should be driven, justified and implemented with the business and requires close collaboration, much like any joint-business venture. This collaboration between IT and the business at-large is a basic tenet of the Agile approach as well. Architects should steel themselves, however, as businesses, driven by market forces, want change now. SOA, however, requires upfront, well thought out work. This requirement for change "now" is why SOA implementation needs to unfold strategically and tactically at the same time.

Igor, Bring Me a Brain!

Strategically speaking, you need a roadmap with some amount of infrastructure in place and an idea of what applications will be deployed first. But just how much infrastructure should be implemented before you start reaping SOA benefits? What is the tipping point if SOA benefits can only be achieved by deploying applications that use it?

To reach this tipping point, you need to establish the minimum foundation for SOA services, specifically the services that implement architectural patterns not driven by the business. These are infrastructure services such as security, messaging, and interface (e.g., SOAP, WSDL, JMS, CORBA). This foundation dictates the ability to cope with business changes and refactoring applications as the enterprise moves towards SOA maturity.


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