This is a definition of SOA provided in your answer to What exactly is service-oriented architecture?.
Service-oriented architecture is an architectural discipline that centers on the notion that IT assets are described and exposed as services. These services can then be composed in a loosely coupled fashion into higher-level business processes, which provide business agility in the face of IT heterogeneity.
And most of the articles and discussions regarding SOA are similar. They mention the business processes but discuss the IT subject areas. It seems to me the biggest hurdle for SOA will be getting the business process (business architecture) integrated with the technology architecture and getting the culture and behavior to shift in the executive suite necessary for them to actively manage the business processes and resultant IT integration.
How will SOA be incorporated into the C-suite activities? How will SOA change enterprise management and governance? How will SOA impact organizations and organizations' behavior?
These are the more compelling questions that are not yet being addressed in any depth.
The reader is very astute in realizing the SOA mandates not only technological change, but also change to the business and organization of IT itself. The organizational, governance and business process changes that are necessitated could fill an entire book, but I'll summarize here what some of those necessary changes are.
The problem we have today with Web services and SOAs is that companies are consistently applying and thinking of Web services and service-oriented architectures in the way they have traditionally thought of previous distributed computing technologies, such as the Web, EDI, CORBA or DCOM. The problem, of course, is that they are misapplying SOA and Web services technology. The invention is a better way to do distributed computing; the innovation is the change in the way we build and distribute our business processes.
Web services and SOAs aren't simply about reducing integration complexity or doing CORBA better. Businesses are struggling to understand how Web services and SOAs will provide significant value-add to their business, but many are thinking about the wrong value proposition. The key to understanding how SOAs will radically transform business is to understand how the service abstraction layer changes the way companies develop, expose and consume business processes in a B2B environment.
Most companies implement integration as an arm's-length activity where their own business processes are isolated from their customers' or partners' business processes. As such, when these companies consider implementing Web services or SOA, they only see limited value -- that of reducing the cost of that arm's length integration. But companies really don't want integration at arm's length -- they really want their products or services to be embedded within their customer's business processes. In effect, this is a true form of "business process outsourcing," where a company's customers extend their business processes to include their products and services. Such embedding is where the true transformational value proposition of SOA lies.
SOA enables embedded business process in two key ways. First, SOA mandates that companies consider their application functionality to be location independent, loosely coupled assets that service consumers can compose as needed. Such services must be secure, policy-based and reliable. These capabilities allow companies to build services that are not simply front-end to back-end processes, but that they can also embed into their customers' systems. Second, SOAs enable companies to build processes that are composed as services, and, in turn, exposed as services, which means that an entire business process can be exposed to customers, without sacrificing the ability to modify that process in a loosely coupled fashion.
Companies who are struggling with trying to understand the value proposition of Web services and SOAs must look carefully at how they are applying the technology. It is short-sighted to consider SOAs to be merely a way to reduce the cost of integration. SOAs in the B2B context -- when they are loosely coupled, secure, policy-based and reliable -- provide a more compelling and transformational business value proposition. Once companies realize the value of embedding companies' business processes into their customers' or partners' business processes, SOAs will significantly and radically transform their business, as the Web did in the last decade.
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