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Effective SOA Requires Intermediaries

SOA is all about factoring business functionality into shared, reusable services, and then assembling those services into automated business processes. Because it's disruptive technology that can impact not only your company's IT department but also operations, accounting, and myriad other departments, installing a SOA in your organization will require a new level of collaboration across departmental boundaries.

More than anything, though, a successful SOA initiative requires a strong IT governance program. Companies that have problems controlling the software development life cycle in their IT departments or that have done a poor job getting a handle on IT project ROI, business alignment, and portfolio management won't find that SOA cures everything. In fact, they may just get themselves deeper in the hole.

It doesn't help that the SOA intermediary market is undergoing rapid consolidation as startups seek to expand beyond their niches and larger players offer suites that claim to cover all of an enterprise's service integration needs. In our report, we examine the current state of the four main SOA intermediary product categories--enterprise service bus, design-time governance, runtime management, and XML security gateways--and examine how they overlap and how vendors within each category plan to attain world domination. But no product will eliminate problems unless IT first understands that SOA is a design concept, even though it's often confused with specific technologies and practices, such as middleware and application integration.

SOA does rely on middleware to enable communications among distributed services; it goes beyond the practice of application integration, which often involves communication between legacy apps rather than a fundamental redesign. Problem is, this often results in duplicate data being read and written across multiple silos, which can cause quality issues.

Faced with competition from both startups and large Internet companies like Amazon.com and Google, businesses are slowly realizing the value of offering SOA-based services that consumers can "mash up" with other creative, Web-oriented apps. In addition to attracting new customers with innovative capabilities, it's equally important for businesses to offer stable, trusted services that are capable of delivering the high quality of service that users now demand. Without IT governance, the Web-oriented world of rich Internet applications and composite mashups can easily become unstable and unreliable. To improve your chances for success, establish discipline through a strong IT governance program where quality of service, security, and management issues are of equal importance.