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Governance is Key to SOA Success

Anecdotal evidence from the field suggests that SOA is in danger of falling into the same trough of disillusion as Client/Server did. While some early adopters are claiming high ROI, many are reporting that initial implementations fail to live up to expectations. The problem, as it was in Client/Server disasters, is not the architecture but the way it is implemented. Both Client/Server and SOA are distributed architectures that are inherently complex. This complexity includes the management of the automated processes, exception processes, and control of processes that cross business domains. The solution is multifaceted. It requires new technology, processes, policies and organizational structures. These days the technical issues are easier to solve than the political ones that inevitably arise over shared services.

For the past 18 years I have held to a very important design principle when it comes to distributed systems: Don't build what you can't manage. But that's precisely what many are doing today with SOA.

Companies are Building What They Can't Manage
Surveys indicate that the majority of companies implement SOA solutions without sufficient management controls in place. An ebizQ survey on SOA Governance conducted last August 2006 of 313 companies showed only 17% had full confidence in their governance solutions. Few organizations had formal governance roles defined. When it came to enforcing policies the picture was bleak. 34.5% relied on design reviews (thus could only catch design policies), 26.8% had no idea how policies were enforced, and 22.36% relied on manual auditing and reporting. Bottom line -- this type of governance will not scale.

According to a recent blog post by ebizQ SOA in Action blogger Joe McKendrick, things haven't gotten much better over the course of the year. He reported that a new survey from The SOA Forum (http://www.thesoaforum.org) of 500+ corporations and government agencies found only 12% of companies are happy with their SOA governance. Nine out of ten still rely on manual checks and procedures. "Eighty-five percent said that they rely on manual reviews to achieve governance in the design-time phase of services, and 45% rely on manual policy enforcement checks before adding services to their registries. The SOA Forum survey also reveals that 56% of the respondents admit that at least half of the code or artifacts developed under their roofs are not reviewed for compliance before moving into production. This percentage changes when automated governance approaches are put into place. Among those companies leveraging automated policy enforcement solutions, 88% say more than half of their services are vetted, and 50% say all potential services are vetted, McKendrick reports.


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