Should SOA services be 'resalable,' versus 'reusable'?

Cloud is causing organizations to look at the real costs of service delivery
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

There's been a hubub going on for years now on whether 'reuse' is a valid value proposition for service oriented architecture. Maybe reuse is simply the wrong word.

Luca Cutolo, the galloping SOA gourmet, recently posted a business-focused perspective on SOA that faults the lack of "vision" in many SOA efforts, and makes the following point:

"SOA means mainly to do things in a re-sell-able way. Service orientation is a way to make re-use of components and features across the Enterprise and to sell them between departments, line of businesses or to customers by defining service level agreements (SLA)."

Maybe it's time we threw out "reuse" as a term for describing SOA-based services, and started couching services in terms of "resale." After all, it's all about being able to sell capabilities to the business, and the business being willing to pay for them in some way (either through inter-departmental funding or direct purchase).

Look to the emerging cloud computing model, that introduces the rigors of the market to services, be they internal or external, for this vision. For example, SOA could be run as the foundation of an internal cloud business. ZDNet colleague Dion Hinchliffe, for one, recently proposed that SOA-based services be deployed the same way cloud businesses deploy their open APIs. In other words, managing an SOA effort as an internal business, providing services to the rest of the enterprise, with profits or losses, a la cloud. Dion pointed out that cloud providers face the rigors of the marketplace and have to prove their value every day. So why not model internal service orientation efforts after the experiences of those external providers?

Cloud computing also introduces more marketplace-enforced cost structures to the SOA ecosphere as well. In a panel discussion I hosted earlier in the summer, David Bressler raised the issue of cost structure, and how cloud -- for better or worse -- provides greater visibility into hidden costs that SOA does not address.

An enterprise customer is far more sensitive to the costs of external cloud services versus internally provided services. That's because "the cloud providers will  provide their services at a specific cost, that's the actual cost plus whatever the margin may be," Dave said. "Whereas, internal IT has always been kind of subsidized.  If you need a  project, you get internal IT to put it together for you, and delivered for you, and a lot of those costs  either were hidden, and were dispersed across the enterprise. Cloud is forcing organizations to look at the actual cost of service delivery and perhaps the alignment more with what the market will be."

This all makes sense, as companies are becoming both consumers and providers of services. Such service delivery occurs internally as well as outside of the corporate boundaries.  By applying market-driven pricing inside and out, companies will see the true value of SOA and cloud formations.

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