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SOAs Help Businesses Deal with Change

SOAs Help Businesses Deal with Change

IBM announced some new software and services to make it easier for companies to adapt their information-technology infrastructures to changing business conditions. The latest IBM offerings will help companies build service-oriented architectures (SOAs), which are collections of business processes that use reusable standard interfaces to integrate applications within a company as well as with customers and suppliers.

IBM's focus on SOAs is an extension of its existing strategy to help customers take advantage of standards-based technologies to drive down costs, create new opportunities for growth, and transform to on-demand business. IBM has been laying the groundwork for SOAs through WebSphere Application Server and integration software, Tivoli's infrastructure management and security software, and supporting the developing industry standards for Web services, combined with their enormous footprint knowledge and experience of solving problems for businesses.

Today, lots of companies use hard-coded connections to communicate with applications both inside and outside of their offices. These connections can make it difficult for companies to respond to change. Because SOAs are collections of standards-based software components, such as Web services, they enable companies to create flexible, reusable connections to address specific business issues such as a manufacturer simplifying its supply chain or a bank processing a mortgage application.

By breaking down business components into basic building blocks, just as the standardized software interfaces allow the IT infrastructure to be componentized, flexible business processes can then be matched with flexible IT processes. The time it takes to process data by linking the business and ITprocesses in an SOA has the potential to be reduced to days.

Companies can start using SOAs to solve a small number of business problems to get their feet wet and roll out the SOA implementation at their own comfort level and pace.

You can use SOAs to turn existing functionality into a single, reusable component by creating an environment where multiple groups can access the same low-cost infrastructure and save each group or company money.

Early adopters who have implemented SOAs say that they have been able to see dramatic cost savings through reductions in development and operating costs.

The standardization of the architecture, has enabled consumers to consolidate resources using WebSphere Business Integration Server. It allows them to build and integrate applications within service-oriented architectures and it offers native support for the Business Process Execution Language, which is an industry-standard specification executing business logic. WebSphere Business Integration Server also enables companies to create reusable services out of their existing Web services as well as to package applications and combine services to link business processes with software applications.

Planning before embarking on an SOA implementation is key, as you must assess both functional and technical aspects of the planned SOA implementation to meet desired quality of service. Planning for SOAs that follow a path beginning and ending with specific objectives while identifying potential SOA business service candidates is key to a viable SOA vision.

Using the SOA functional building blocks, SOA governance model, an SOA reference model architecture, and an SOA transition plan to realize your specific SOA is an absolute must.

If you have data in a legacy system, and almost everyone does, you should think about where the potential value is in exposing legacy data and linking it to new business processes in the SOA. Leveraging the legacy applications you have with SOA can give you a huge bang for your buck.

Once your business has been divided into a set of discrete activities supported by people, processes, and systems, the pieces can be measured and benchmarked, thereby identifying the weaknesses and strengths of individual business activities, allowing you to better select areas for process improvement.

The challenge of any information technology project is effectiveness - making sure the deployed technology solves the original business problem as efficiently as possible. The use of SOAs is a major step in the right direction.

More Stories By Jacques Martin

Jack Martin, editor-in-chief of WebSphere Journal, is cofounder and CEO of Simplex Knowledge Company (publisher of Sarbanes-Oxley Compliance Journal http://www.s-ox.com), an Internet software boutique specializing in WebSphere development. Simplex developed the first remote video transmission system designed specifically for childcare centers, which received worldwide media attention, and the world's first diagnostic quality ultrasound broadcast system. Jack is co-author of Understanding WebSphere, from Prentice Hall.

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