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Integration the key to SOA at Eastman Chemical

For Eastman Chemical, the road to service-oriented architecture (SOA) began with a complete integration of technologies and business processes across the company.

SAN DIEGO -- For Eastman Chemical, the road to service-oriented architecture (SOA) began with a complete integration of technologies and business processes across the company.

Speaking to attendees of the Burton Group's Catalyst Conference on Wednesday, Carroll Pleasant, an associate analyst with the Kingsport, Tenn.-based Eastman, said that his company is on its way to completing SOA implementation. But to get started with the process, the company first had to undergo a major organizational shift.

It's much more than just getting into a new technology.
Carroll Pleasant
 associate analystEastman Chemical

"It's much more than just getting into a new technology," Pleasant said. "It's about end-user empowerment, and it requires a lot of architecture work to plan the technology, the role changes for people, training, getting business analysts empowered and trying to optimize all those things together."

Pleasant said the best path to SOA is different for each company and depends on a company's individual business and technology goals. Eastman's goals included reducing costs, increasing automation, reusing code, and finally, focusing on revenue growth. To meet these goals, he said there first needed to be a major focus on integration of systems and processes.

Consolidated view of data stores

Eastman Chemical's move toward integration involved implementing common across the enterprise. This helps to ensure the portability of both applications and employees, who are now able to move across business organizations without much training.

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"Our ERP [enterprise resource planning] system is basically built on the idea of having one common database -- one system of record -- behind everything," Pleasant said.

Pleasant said Eastman has also made quite a bit of progress in terms of browser- and portal-based integration. By putting browsers on top of applications and then portals of top of the browsers, Eastman has been able to create consolidated views of multiple data sources. Pleasant said that portal and browser technology is generally inexpensive to implement and provides a great deal of resource liquidity, or reusability.

"To decide what kind of integration technology to use, I would urge you to first figure out what it is that you're trying to accomplish," Pleasant said.

The associate analyst also said that making the business case for SOA can be a tricky process. Pleasant said that when discussing the move to SOA with business types, he likes to use the analogy of the classic one-piece or console stereo versus today's more modular stereos.

The console stereo was an example of a monolithic, proprietary design and was not very adaptable to changes in technology. Today, stereos are made up of several components that can be easily swapped out or upgraded. The latter, Pleasant said, makes more sense from a business standpoint and the same is true of SOA.

Inclined to go with loosely coupled

Conference attendee Jagjit Singh, an executive engineer with the Salt River Project, a utility company in Tempe, Ariz., said his company is also looking at implementing an SOA to improve communications and business processes.

"We're looking at how we can provide information to other departments without having to worry about different point-to-point connections," Singh said. "We want to provide a single service that will help any department that wants to use information."

Singh said his company will most likely go with loosely coupled services, which communicate with each other, and to end users through SOAP and XML.

"I think the most interesting thing … is that the changes we have to make are not just in the software but also in the culture and the thinking," Singh said. "We also have to get our business-matter experts involved in this and tell us where the changes need to be made."

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