SOA governance overlooked in Asia

Companies still lack governance and planning skills needed to make service-oriented architecture projects succeed, industry observer says.

While many companies recognize the benefits service-oriented architecture (SOA) can provide, the lack of governance is often the reason why many implementations fail.

Speaking today at the launch of webMethods' Fabric 7 business process management suite, Eric Lim, general manager at webMethods Asean and India, said: "Companies have realized it's not so easy to [deploy] SOA, and many who've tried it have failed."

"People now realize they need to have governance [in place] for SOA to work," Lim said.

According to analyst company Gartner, the lack of governance is one of the most common reasons SOA projects fail. "SOA governance isn't optional, it's imperative," Gartner said, in a September 2006 research note. "Without it, returns on investment will be low and every SOA project out of pilot phase will be at risk."

Ravi Shekhar, an analyst at Springboard Research told ZDNet Asia: "Today's enterprise functions in a very complex business environment, dictated not just by business or market dynamics, but also by complex and stringent regulations.

"You combine this with the growing complexity of enterprise IT architecture and you have an array of challenges often related to decision making," Shekhar added.

He noted that for SOA projects to be successful, strong governance, manageability and planning--which Asian companies lack--are required.

"These requirement are often beyond the processes and skills of Asian organizations," he said. "A considerable threat to the successful adoption of SOA across Asia is a body of failed SOA implementations due to inadequate planning and governance, which then tarnishes SOA's merit to a broader audience."

In September last year, webMethods acquired Infravio, a provider of SOA registry and governance applications, for about US$38 million. Gartner said the acquisition is the right move toward completing webMethods' offerings in SOA governance, across the design and usage cycles of SOA service components.

The acquisition, Gartner said, also places a strong emphasis on the registry and mediation capabilities of Infravio, as a means of making service location, retrieval and versioning an integrated part of the governance effort.

webMethods Fabric 7 includes the Infravio X-Registry and Infravio X-Broker, which bring together a UDDI (Universal Description, Discovery and Integration protocol) version 3.0-compliant registry, messaging and service orchestration, as well as service level agreement management, versioning and audit logging.

According to Gartner, Fabric 7 could position the company to compete more strongly with other governance vendors such as Hewlett-Packard, AmberPoint, Progress Software and SOA Software.

In addition to integrating its acquisitions, Gartner said webMethods must add more business services to its portfolio so that governance capabilities can be applied to specific industry problems. Without this, the acquisition will expand webMethods' governance presence but not elevate the company to a new level of solution provision in vertical markets, the analyst added.

According to Andy Wilkinson, senior vice president and general manager at webMethods Asia-Pacific and Japan, his region contributes about 12 percent to the company's annual revenue of about US$200 million.

Growth in this region, however, was flat last year, Wilkinson said. This was due to the lackluster IT market conditions in Japan, a country that contributes the bulk of webMethod's Asian revenue, he added. The company has more than 400 customers in the region, including China Mobile, Hong Kong Disneyland and Neusoft.

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