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Most organizations are researching, considering and even implementing service-oriented architectures (SOAs) within or across their IT environments.

With SOA comes SOA technology, including Web services standards, XML, and more. As these standards and technologies mature and are deployed for high-volume production applications, there’s an increasing chance that some of these technologies will find their way into packaged hardware solutions or SOA appliances.

Perhaps the best place to start a discussion of SOA appliances, though, is with a brief discussion of where SOA fits into the business drivers and what SOA really means to a business. It’s important to keep the overall goals and benefits in mind.

SOA isn’t just about technologies. Of course you need technologies like Web Services and XML to have SOA, but you also need more than that. SOA is really about the business benefits you can get from adopting these types of technologies. As a result, you really want to tie the three core aspects of the business—its people, the business processes, and corporate information—back to the IT initiatives that involve SOA technologies.

On the people side, you need to enable human and process interaction with consistent levels of service. On the process side, you want to achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness with business model innovation and the ability to respond quickly to market changes or customer needs. On the information side, you want to make sure your systems are delivering trusted and accurate information in a timely manner in a business context to enable employees or users.

Of course, doing all that requires technology. As organizations make increasing investments in SOA technology, it’s probably a good time to take a look at how those technologies are starting to migrate from software to hardware with the rise of SOA appliances.

Let's start by looking at specialized SOA appliances and understanding where they might sit in terms of an organization’s IT architecture.

SOA appliances can help organizations manage SOA functions that sit between the network infrastructure layer and the application infrastructure layers. XML devices or SOA appliances fit in right between the traditional software infrastructure and the traditional hardware infrastructure of the network. In fact, it’s not the first time that this type of solution has evolved.


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