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Application modernization cuts IT costs but SOA often requires an investment

A recent study by Vanson Bourne Research found that the lion’s share of respondents would prefer to cut IT costs with application modernization (58%) than with IT layoffs (17%), complete application rebuilds (16%) or moving applications into modern programming languages (10%). The survey polled 250 CIOs, IT managers and IT professionals across the United States, United Kingdom and Germany.

With the economic challenges that the past few years have placed on enterprise IT shops, it shouldn’t be surprising that many would rather re-host applications, update user interfaces and tweak some performance bottlenecks than invest in a full overhaul. But what about modernizing with SOA?

Many of the folks we talk to at SearchSOA, not surprisingly, consider a service-oriented approach to be a great way to make more out of less. You break apart application functions into reusable services and wire them together into applications and processes as needed. Reduce, re-use, recycle.

Yet, as a method of modernization, SOA is not always the method of choice, said Ken Powell, president of Micro Focus North America, an application modernization shop.

“The problem is, the translation of SOA to a hard cost savings in today’s environment is suspect,” said Powell. “The CIOs are having trouble connecting those dots.”

Powell said modernization often involved a lot of Linux and Unix years ago but that Microsoft’s inexpensiveness has made its platform very popular in more recent years. SOA, he said, is a “tough road to hoe.”

Moving into service-oriented thinking can come at a price, particularly for larger enterprises. Still there are plenty of enterprises who have faith in the approach. Travelport — a travel transaction company processing up to 1.6 billion messages a day — made headlines recently when it contracted IBM for a massive SOA modernization project. The company didn’t say just how many millions of dollars are involved, but Sig411 analyst Adrian Bowles says someone at Travelport is probably betting his career on the deal.

So why did Travelport modernize with new transaction processing machines, an enterprise service bus and a large infrastructural upgrade? Manly speed and scale. Travelport’s CIO Mark Ryan said one goal is to give end users — people searching for flights, hotels and other travel arraignments through sites like — more comprehensive search results in the same time profile. For this, he said, they wanted 64-bit services communicating through a fast ESB and an in-memory architecture. But such innovation always requires an investment.

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