Is the market ready for SOA?
By Julia Doll, SAP NetWeaver Product Management – SOA middleware
Service oriented architecture (SOA) is a promising new architecture based on reusable “services” as the name implies. By modeling an application the needed functionalities is provided as service and will be integrated by calling and reusing the corresponding Service. This reduces the chances of duplication of implementation. Open standards (like WSDL, UDDI, SOAP, etc.) enable easy integration.
With new SOA based developing tools like SAP NetWeaver Composition Environment 7.1TM (SAP NW CE) and SAP NetWeaver Business Process Modeling (SAP NW BPM), SAP frees their customers from their dependency on Java or ABAP experts. Those are graphical tools, which allow developing by drag and drop without coding. SAP NW BPM is based on BPMN, a notation that business users prefer to outline processes. In that way, SAP tries to combine IT and business as well as adding value by using the consolidated knowledge of business processes provided by the business users. On the whole, the gained time and cost efficiency and reduced learning efforts enable customers to adapt to the fast changing market situations and to win.
The list of benefits is long and all big software providers invest already in SOA as a winning strategy. Not only SAP also other companies based their products on SOA: IBM (WebSphere), Oracle (BEA WebLogic), Microsoft (Biz talk Server) and Tibco (MQ Series) etc.
Apparently, the customers are still satisfied with their old systems. To change this trusted systems could mean a lot of effort and to end up in a situation that is worse and unstable. Considering that, as long as these systems still run there is no urgent reason for the customer to change to a new technology. Changing is always about taking risks and investing money and time.
There are a lot of sources providing knowledge about SOA like the internet. Most of the customers seem to have heard of “SOA” but still don’t know about its concepts and benefits. SAP also provides information about SOA on different for customers accessible pages. However, the decision makers of a company are focused on solving problems fast and providing the essential functionality. This needs time, money and resources to deal with the changes needed. The IT team might inform about new technologies but still they would have to convince the management. The most crucial factor therefore is the ROI.
To measure the ROI of SOA or of any IT strategy is challenging if not impossible. The customers know benefits like time or money efficiency but how much it contributes to overall savings needs discipline in measurement and execution. The winnings cannot be traced back to any changes in the IT systems even if that would be the fact. As long as those numbers cannot be pointed out accurately, it will be hard to persuade the decision making management to adopt the same.
At this moment, it still seems like the customer changing randomly by upgrading their products to a newer version, which is already based on SOA. However, the interesting part is that those customers are satisfied with SOA afterwards. The challenge right now is to find a way to get the customers investing actively in SOA and move their companies to the next level. We need to get the attention of the customer focused on SOA with better sales, marketing and communication strategies. SOA will be the de facto standard sooner or later, since the big software solution vendors have already decided to adopt it as a standard.