by March 1, 2008 0 comments

There has been plenty of talk about today’s dynamic business environment and
much has been written about it. Organizations face various challenges that force
them to undergo dramatic changes to grow and be more profitable. These
challenges include fierce competition from rivals, ever-changing requirements
for regulatory compliance, pressure to create new business areas and increase
customer base, to innovate and generate new sources of revenue. To overcome
these challenges, organizations must change and adapt quickly to new trends
without adversely affecting their core business functionalities. For this to
happen they have to move out of the shackles of having siloed applications for
different business processes towards a more flexible and seamless business
environment, where business processes are more integrated as well as flexible to
changing requirements. SOA has emerged as a dominant technology for supporting
such business transformations.

Direct Hit!

Applies To:
System architects, IT decision makers
USP: Integrate various business processes
Primary Link: None
Google Keywords: SOA

Why SOA?
Software engineers know from the beginning of their software development
cycle that software which changes frequently should be decoupled from software
that changes infrequently. This principle, when applied to the information
management of an organization, becomes SOA. However, it is the practice of
isolating core business functionalities into independent services that doesn’t
change frequently. These services are functions that are called by one or more
presentation programs, and are nothing but interfaces that present data to and
also accept data from users. To make things more clear about services, let’s
take an example of an online store. Visitors who browse the website of such a
store are presented with content on their browsers through presentation
software. This software interprets visitors/ customers gestures and
correspondingly invokes services that retrieve data of the product catalog that
a customer is viewing or for registering a customer’s order basket. The services
that are called do not know that they are talking to a website; they could
easily be talking to a thick client or even some other application such as an
ERP solution. These services simply accept and return data in a standard format.
Now since change is part of life, the website too may undergo change with time.
The presentation interface may be changed for different layouts or to
incorporate new technologies such as Ajax. But none of this has to do anything
with the core business functionalities that are encapsulated by these
independent services that we talked about earlier. Similarly, if there is a
change to the business logic, then these services have to be worked upon without
changing the presentation software.

Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) is a framework that supports
transformation of an organization’s business into a set of linked services,
reusable and repeatable business tasks, which can be accessed over a network, be
it a local intranet or the Internet. These services coalesce to achieve a
specific business task of the organization.

The data of enterprise apps is integrated to
create a coherent service interface that connects people, processes and
business partners

Implementation scenarios
Two key benefits from an SOA implementation are: alignment of IT with
business processes; and the ability to maximize the reuse of IT assets. So, the
question arises: How should an organization tap into SOA? Let’s take an example
of a manufacturing company. Manufacturers have to respond to customer demands in
time and also, to improve profitability, they must reduce complexities in
business and manufacturing processes. To manage different business processes,
they adopt various applications, such as SCM for production management, CRM for
vendor and customer related information management, etc. But each of these
applications is restricted to their own domain, thus forming an obstacle for
seamless information flow. Moreover, a manufacturer would like to integrate his
supply chain with trading partners for better delivery of products, so that
inventory shortfall or an urgent business contract demand could be met in time.
With the implementation of SOA, the manufacturing company shall be able to
integrate their various legacy systems by adopting a presentation framework that
would enable data flow across these disparate systems, through a standard
format, such as XML. And through the use of Web Services, they can collaborate
or exchange information with their trading partners for business processes
related to inventory management over the Internet. Thus, by implementing SOA, a
manufacturing organization can achieve end-to-end manufacturing process
integration, and have just one overall interface for the organization’s business
intelligence, coming from various information stores of disparate applications
such as SCM and CRM. This in return streamlines their business process right
from material procurement to production and finally the delivery of the product
to customer.

SOA implementation can be done at various stages by an organization. IBM has
defined five entry-points. These points are driven by both business and IT needs
for an organization. The entry points relating to business needs of an
organization are:

hrough a common framework of services, various
biz apps and platform techs can be integrated to exchange information
  • People: Focus on user experience, to enhance collaboration and to
    improve business productivity.
  • Process: Focus on the present business model to transform business
    processes into reusable services and to optimize business processes.
  • Information: Leverage the business information to all functional
    areas of the business.

The entry points pertaining to IT needs of an organization include:

  • Connectivity: Effectively connect the infrastructure; integrating
    people, processes and information in the organization and also to connect to
    communicate with external trading partners beyond an organization’s firewall.
  • Reuse: Focus on reusing existing services and cutting down on
    duplication that results in reduced development time and ensure consistency
    across all business processes in the organization.

Such entry points help an organization to think and strategize their business
needs and objectives to be fulfilled by means of SOA implementation.
For any organization, that is planning to move ahead with SOA, understanding
this baseline perspective becomes really important; to decide what business
processes should be configured to incorporate SOA. A proper SOA implementation
for an organization or business would result in seamless information flow across
heterogeneous applications, platforms and transmission protocols.

e-Governance in Goa
To better understand the need
and benefits of having SOA, let’s look at a recent e-governance solution
implemented by the Goa government. To improve government-to-citizen
services, the government offers integrated services under one roof through
Citizen Service Centers (CSC) and Web portals. 3i Infotech was given the
task to develop an integrated solution for the payment of water bills,
electricity bills, issuance of certificates for birth or land records, etc.
A total of 15 separate services are to be brought under one site, to provide
citizens with anytime and anywhere access to these services. The departments
involved in the implementation include: electricity, commercial taxes,
transport, public works, land settlement and records, municipal
administration and the various panchayats-all with different databases and
Adoption of SOA based products and solutions would have addressed specific
business problems related to the development of applications for seamless
access of various services by citizens. BEA’s WebLogic, AquaLogic Service
Bus and the Data Service Platform were chosen for the purpose. The Data
Services Platform, essentially due to its SOA-based architecture, allowed 3i
Infotech to create Web services in an integrated manner. The robustness and
the Open Standards nature of the platform meant that integration would be
quite seamless. For connecting services from heterogeneous processes,
service bus platform was used for tight coupling and service mediation.
And through the WebLogic portal, various user interfaces for different
services could be put under one application. Thus, a portal with various
government services could be offered to citizens at one place, rather than
the latter having to open different applications on multiple windows.
The adoption of SOA resulted in integration of different government
services, without having to rework on the code for each application. This
portal has resulted in reduced administration burden over these services and
also reduced costs of infrastructure, monitoring and database management for
the Goa government.

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