SOA: The dream of a common language.
(InfoWorld) - NEW YORK -- SOA isn't a revolutionary new technology that will necessitate ripping, replacing, or relearning everything you know. Rather, SOA is an evolutionary step in interoperability. And it is good news for any business or IT executive who has ever dreamed of a technology framework flexible enough to respond to real world business processes.
This knowledge comes from Andy Brown, chief technology architect at the financial services company Merrill Lynch, who spoke Monday at InfoWorld's SOA Executive Forum in New York.
Brown has a lot of knowledge to impart. Merrill Lynch is ahead of the pack in SOA deployment and Brown is right there in the trenches.
SOA is a framework architecture and a way of thinking, not another new technology, Brown said.
Although SOA is evolutionary it is changing how we do business and, unlike many buzzword IT acronyms, it is here to stay.
First off, SOA requires enterprise architecture and a vision for your company's business processes, Brown said.
"You have to have enterprise architecture and goals about how you want processes to function -- where you want to be in a year's time. It comes down to business aspirations, operating principals, and rolling that into a [strategy], of which SOA will be a part," Brown said.
SOA creates return on assets via systematic reuse, Brown said.
Although the idea of reuse is not new, he added, "what SOA does is change it from a technology problem to a business problem."
A Common Language
A key benefit of an SOA approach is that it creates a common language between technology and business people, Brown said.
"We've been talking different languages for the past 20 years," Brown said.
At its core, SOA is process oriented and gets business people thinking in a process-oriented way. To help create real-time process visibility, adoption of business process modeling tools alongside SOA is important.
"Getting business [people] thinking about how processes should work [is] very complicated. BPM tools let you capture the processes out of peoples' heads and write them down," he said.
For financial services in particular, one of the most important considerations in SOA development is process effectiveness, Brown said.
"At Merrill Lynch we focused on operating efficiencies, put everything on standards. Our major cost is driven by process integration and data. Those two things are driving the strategy at Merrill Lynch," Brown said.
Furthermore, the processes you put around data are competitively differentiating.
"Look at Dell," he said. "If you are in a commoditizing business, data drives efficiency."
With SOA initiatives, as with any technology or framework, there are new problems.
Two of the biggest issues to deal with are capacity management and SLAs, Brown said.
"Getting a real capacity for processes is very important. You can't really do it without BPM," he said.
Another stumbling block is data, Brown said. When getting systems that haven't talked together to work together in a process, data is the problem.
In an SOA framework, reliance on a mainframe isn't something that needs to be changed.
"At Merrill Lynch many business processes run on the mainframe," he said. Benefits are that the costs are known and controlled and the mainframe is stable and reliable, according to Brown.
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