|By Ash Parikh, David Lyle, Wei Zheng||
|August 17, 2008 04:45 PM EDT||
According to Wikipedia, “The last mile (or last kilometer) is the final leg of delivering connectivity from a communications provider to a customer. Usually referred to by the telecommunications and cable television industries, it is typically seen as an expensive challenge because ‘fanning out’ wires and cables is a considerable physical undertaking.” The significant complexity, cost, and risk associated with this situation delayed many broadband rollouts until new technology became available that could realize the “last mile.”
This powerful and real-world analogy from the world of telecommunications and cable TV succinctly summarizes the current state of Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) in the enterprise. It is widely agreed in concept that SOA has the potential to break down barriers between application silos and enable the reuse of business or application-level services across an enterprise. Hence, SOA has held great promise as the enabler of a new generation of more agile and cost-effective IT solutions. Unfortunately, the last mile has been the hardest for SOA, causing it to fail to live up to people’s high expectations. And that’s because, in their zeal to realize the benefits promised by early SOA hype, customers and technology providers have overlooked a crucial component for the success of any SOA initiative – they’ve ignored the data!
To illustrate this fact, let’s discuss the case of a large financial services provider that was looking to enhance customer service and enable up-sell and cross-sell opportunities across all their lines of business, such as banking, insurance, and mortgage. The company planned to achieve this goal by offering its customers the convenience of Web-based self-service banking that would offer significant competitive differentiation and increase customer satisfaction, which in turn would drive greater revenue and market share. To deliver on the company’s goals for increased agility, the IT organization built out an SOA that included a Web-based self-service portal to provide access to all customer accounts across all the lines of business in one place.
However, as the various SOA infrastructure components such as an SOA Registry, Enterprise Service Bus (ESB), etc., were being rolled out to the multiple lines of business, it was soon observed that enabling easy, secure, reliable, and timely access to customer account information across all the lines of business, in one place, posed huge data-centric challenges such as:
- Providing a single view of all customer accounts across all financial products
- Ensuring the timely access to up-to-date customer account information
- Ensuring the accuracy of customer information across various customer accounts
Thus holistic, accurate, and timely data is the most strategic enterprise asset. Although the applications and business processes that consume data maybe architected with modern approaches like SOA they are only as efficient as the data that is exchanged through them.
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