Ten examples of SOA at work, circa 2009 (Part 1)

High finance, e-business, customer service, end-user mashups, and even the electrical 'Smart Grid' were all helped by SOA over the past year.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer on

In recent times, SOA plunged down the "hype" mountain into the "trough of disillusionment," and is now finally coasting along in a gradual upward trajectory in the let's-roll-up-our-sleeves-and-make-it-work phase. So 2009 truly was the year of getting down to business with service oriented architecture.

SOA helps high finance, e-business, customer service, end-user mashups, and the 'Smart Grid'

Here are some of this year's leading examples of SOA at work (the first five of ten shining examples), as documented here at this blogsite, as well as my SOA in Action site over at ebizQ:

To pave the way for financial mergers. Hemesh Yadav, IT architect at Wachovia, said there were numerous integration challenges as his organization got absorbed into Wells Fargo, but an enterprise service repository smoothed the path. “If you don’t have a common place to store and keep the information in very organized way, if you don’t have a single repository and you don’t have a good taxonomy to classify those services, even though you have a single enterprise solution, it doesn’t really make you very productive…. if you build an enterprise repository and implement a single enterprise metamodel, it will be very easy to classify, store, access, and understand data.”

To build and sustain a platform to support e-business transactions. Cisco Systems, practicing what it preaches when it comes to doing business over the network, launched a “Commerce Transformation” initiative that helped triple transactions to $4 billion in a year via its SOA-based partner application. Cisco's  Partner Deal Registration (PDR) application, for example, provides outside partners secure access to Cisco pricing concessions and programs, leveraging reusable enterprise-class business services such as corporate pricing, configuration, and partner profiles that were coupled with flexible business rules for price lists, contractual discounts, and promotions, among others.

To insure better customer service. AFLAC, the large Georgia-based insurer, is employing service-oriented architecture practices to bring new services online faster and better manage existing services to customers, shareholders, and employees. Previously, the insurer's legacy IT infrastructure was ill-equipped to accommodate the changes. The response was to implement an open-standards-based, services-oriented architecture that enables it to bring services online faster, keeping employees, sales associates and customers connected and informed - with less extensive development efforts. The solution, a flexible middleware platform, enables AFLAC to reengineer existing application functionality into modular, portable Web components that can be reused, thus simplifying the development and integration of new online services.

To enable end-user-created enterprise mashups. Pfizer, the pharma giant, is big on SOA, and has extended this methodology to make it possible for end-users to create their own mashups that are supported by the architecture. End users configure their own mashups -- versus having IT do it for them -- because it's more about knowing the information and the relationships of one piece of information to another. In the process, Pfizer's corporate culture shifted from an IT-does-it-all mentality to one that empowers business users. This was all facilitated by Pfizer's advanced SOA infrastructure. As Barry writes: "Once the culture was more open, Pfizer was able to bring about an attitude of experimentation in software development. Whenever they begin developing new tools, end users get to play with them well before they go into production."

To get on board the "SmartGrid." Steve Pratt, CTO of CenterPoint Energy, an electric utility, said his company saw the need for service-oriented approaches to better leverage its "Smart Grid" initiative. "It was the largest single project our company has ever undertaken," he explained. "We were applying digital technology to the electric grid." SmartGrid required the exchanging of messages, which needed to be properly prioritized -- such as an outage. The company employed an ESB and business process management to manage the workflow. "SOA gives you a modeling technique that you can apply to things you had never done before," he said.

Check out my next post for the next five shining examples of SOA at work.

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