Keeping SOA, the silo killer, from creating new silos

Multiple SOAs on multiple platforms sprout within enterprises

Wasn't SOA supposed to bring us all together? What about all these SOA "islands" that are now sprouting up across our enterprises?

There's no such thing as one single enterprise SOA

I just had the opportunity to co-present a Webinar with IBM's Leif Davidson on this very question. The Webinar is based on the results of a survey of 244 companies, conducted by ebizQ in January.

The survey finds that there's no question that enterprises are firmly committed to service oriented architecture as a strategy going forward - and they're willing to put budget dollars into the endeavor. Fifty-three percent indicated they were increasing SOA spending over 2007 amounts.

But the survey also shows that there's no such thing as a single, all-encompassing SOA effort that covers every service initiative from every corner of the enterprise. Rather, most SOA or enterprise service efforts are "islands" of integration that arise within individual business units, designed to address specific problems.

The challenge is that these separate SOA efforts have different formats and technology foundations under development or implemented within their walls. Many use application servers to support enterprise services, others leverage composite applications on middleware, and others rely on enterprise service buses. In fact, the survey showed that a large swath of enterprises -- a third -- are taking multiple approaches under the same roof to building and supporting SOA, including the above-mentioned approaches.

The survey also found that most of these service deployments aren't yet interfacing with mission-critical systems. But this is changing rapidly, as the number of services designed for reuse proliferate. The survey finds steady, unrelenting growth in organizations maintaining large volumes of SOA-based services - the number with more than 100 services in production is expected to almost double, from nine percent to 16% over the coming year.

The bottom line is that there is no single approach to SOA. SOA requires a mix of solutions but the eventual result should be a more reliable, simple and flexible infrastructure and business.

There are two interconnected levels to addressing the problem. First, on a technology level, is federation. One out of four companies have already moved to a federated infrastructure to support multiple instances of ESBs or intermediaries. Trying to manage a growing SOA through a single ESB would be unsustainable. The survey also shows that those with federated infrastructures are more likely to be able to move from siloed SOA to enterprise-scale SOA.

Then, on a business level, there's governance. Effective governance will make the difference between ending up with a tangle of services -- JBOWS -- or a functioning SOA that truly supports business endeavors at any endpoint across the enterprise. The survey finds that many organizations recognize the urgency of governance, but many still leave this up to the IT department -- especially among smaller companies.

The new Webinar in which Leif and I discuss the implications of the survey results can be found here at the ebizQ site. (Registration required.)