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SOA World - Come Together

Much like a catalyst that enables a reaction, SOA simplifies the integration requirements

Back before I began my career in computers, I studied physics. One of the concepts that fascinated me was that of nuclear fusion - bringing two particles together to form a new, heavier particle and at the same time producing energy.

In the business world, I find the concept of a merger between two companies very much akin to the concept of fusion. You have two companies, which are the particles in this analogy, and you bring them together, creating one new particle, the new company, as well as energy. We can debate the actual value of energy in this analogy, but from my perspective when you bring two companies together, you have a duplication of functions (most of the time), and those duplicates that are discarded as a result can be considered the energy.

Service-oriented architecture enters the picture as we begin to consider how to fuse two organizations together. In the world of physics, you often need to accelerate particles at each other at high speeds to overcome the innate positive charge of the particles, which causes a repulsive effect the closer the particles come to each other. Similarly in business, two organizations often have identical functions and duplicate software systems that are the systems of record for each organization. To successfully merge two corporate entities, the repulsive effect of having to operate duplicate systems needs to be overcome. Oftentimes a newly fused corporate entity makes a decision on which systems to use and which systems to abandon. In the end that may in fact be the final path. But often, simultaneous operation must be accommodated for a period of time (which sometimes equates to eternity).

SOA - which provides capabilities for loosely coupling these duplicate systems, federating the data between them and managing the concept of systems of record - is an enabler that eases the pain of bringing two entities together.

Much like a catalyst that enables a reaction, SOA simplifies the integration requirements by lowering the barriers for simultaneous operation. It also provides the ability to provide a common façade over multiple integration points, allowing the indefinite operation of redundant systems, as well as for the eventual retirement of some of the redundant software.

When we create fusion and collide particles, certain particles are more "stable" than others. The more stable a particle, the more difficult it is to achieve fusion. Rather than assign a negative connotation to the word "stable," let's say that some particles accept change more readily than others. These particles are also much more receptive to fusion.

Similarly, an organization that has already embraced service-oriented architecture as a core component of its IT organization becomes more receptive to the concept of merging with another organization. Because concepts such as service catalogs, system facades, business process management, and the like are part and parcel of the organization, the concept of merging a set of redundant systems becomes less of a climactic event and more of business as usual - integration and consolidation. Integrating with another company no longer presents nightmares to an IT organization with SOA in place.

We all know that there are winners and losers in mergers - part of the attraction of merging two organizations is the ability to gain economies of scale by reducing the number of people needed to perform a particular function as volume increases. Often, IT organizations have great fear in a merger, as they are typically candidates for staff reduction. For an organization with SOA in place, the odds of being part of the reduction in staff is greatly diminished compared to staff in an organization that has no integration strategy in place.

Just as in physics, fusing two companies requires a great deal of time, effort, and energy. SOA makes it easier.

More Stories By Sean Rhody

Sean Rhody is the founding-editor (1999) and editor-in-chief of SOA World Magazine. He is a respected industry expert on SOA and Web Services and a consultant with a leading consulting services company. Most recently, Sean served as the tech chair of SOA World Conference & Expo 2007 East.

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