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SOA adopters to gain long term benefits

Butler Group : 17 June, 2008  (New Product)
Butler Group report on Software Oriented Architecture governance details reasons for early adoption including the increasing difficulty to retrofit to existing processes in the future
Organisations that under-invest in the Software Oriented Architecture (SOA) governance initiative will fail to reap the long-term benefits SOA offers. This is one of the key conclusions to be drawn in new report, just published by Europe's leading IT research and advisory organisation, Butler Group. The report,'SOA Governance', says that while technology support will be required, this is primarily an organisational issue with the emphasis on putting the right people in the right roles, and giving them the necessary authority to ensure that the architecture design is kept consistent with business aims and requirements.

"Most organisations deploying SOA leave it too late to implement effective governance." says Rob Hailstone, Software Infrastructure Practice Director at Butler Group. "The longer you leave it, the more difficult it becomes to 'retrofit' governance to an operational SOA environment. However, the effort must be made if the SOA initiative is not to descend into chaos."

For enterprises the adoption of SOA provides significant potential to improve the value they derive from their IT investments, in terms of increased flexibility, improved use of assets, alignment with business objectives, and reduced integration costs.

Butler Group's report deals with the four major phases of the SOA deployment: Planning, Design and Development, Run-time, and Change Lifecycle.

While most descriptions of SOA governance focus on the technology-centric run-time environment, this represents just a small part of the overall governance effort. The ideal time for an organisation to commit to SOA governance is right at the start of the SOA initiative, by establishing the design authorities for the services and other artefacts to ensure that disruptive ownership issues are minimised.
One of the disruptive aspects of SOA that is often missed in early projects is that all resources in a SOA need to be shared, and this means traditional budget-holder ownership models are a very poor fit - leading to much frustration further down the line.

The report additionally points out that an IT-driven SOA initiative is unlikely to be effective in the long term unless the parent organisation recognises the need to become more adaptable itself. It needs to be prepared to examine its own organisational model as part of the change process.

From a design perspective, perhaps the most important concept for SOA implementers to understand is the need to abstract anything subject to change (such as business process logic, business rules, service level agreement enforcement, security policies, etc.), from the more stable business logic. The report details the way in which failure to address abstraction at the design stage can lead to complex dependencies that will make ongoing change management time-consuming, expensive, and unwieldy.

Technologies that support the SOA governance initiative include service registries to provide the system of record for service discovery, metadata repositories to assist in version management and impact analysis, monitoring tools to provide run-time visibility into the health and activity of the environment, and policy enforcement technology.

Delivering the long-term benefits of SOA will only be possible if organisations recognise the need to invest in a SOA governance initiative.

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