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Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) may be on the lips of many an enterprise architect in large organizations around the world, but more often than not, talk of SOA leads to discussions of technical and organizational challenges rather than a focus on business value. Couple these doubts with many vendors' heavyweight "SOA middleware" or "SOA platform" offerings, and you might be led to believe that SOA is little more than an excuse to buy more software, or worse yet, entirely dead in the water.

Fortunately, this doom-and-gloom perspective is truly off the mark, as hundreds (if not thousands) of organizations are already showing real success with their SOA initiatives today. True, there are pitfalls along the way, but none of them are insurmountable. Nevertheless, for an organization to show progress with their SOA initiative, they must be able to navigate the various challenges along the way.

Navigating around the heavyweight, vendor-driven approach to SOA that requires substantial investment in new software is one important step, but many organizations veer too far in the other direction, and take a lightweight approach to SOA that consists primarily of building Web Services. Without the proper focus on architecture, however, such lightweight approaches yield "JBOWS"--"just a bunch of Web Services," which may be redundant, incompatible, or worst of all, unmanaged and insecure. The bottom line with the lightweight JBOWS approach is that it is not truly SOA at all, because the approach lacks a sufficient focus on architecture.

To avoid both these extremes, what organizations require is a right weight approach to SOA--one that doesn't require large investments in software, large bets on single vendors, or extensive retraining, but still enables organizations to build Services that are truly loosely coupled and composable, enabling them to build and support agile business processes. The good news is that with the right approach and solution, organizations are able to build successful, right weight SOA implementations that reduce risk and show business value while avoiding many pitfalls along the way.

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