Starter SOA

Jeff Schneider has posted a series of entries on “Starter SOA” on his blog. The first deals with what he “believes is at the heart of the SOA issue.” It recommends attacking three specific areas in getting started: portfolio management, enterprise architecture, and information management. I think this is right on, for very straightforward reasons. First, portfolio management deals with what services should be created. If you don’t make any changes to this discipline, you’re simply going to get the same solutions you always have, except with some services thrown in. That’s not SOA. Secondly, enterprise architecture is the technical counterpart to the portfolio management side. While portfolio management is concerned about the business aspects of shared services, enterprise architecture needs to be concerned about the technical aspects of shared services. Finally, information management is the source of consistency across our services. If every service team defines its own service schemas, we really haven’t made things much better, as additional effort must now be made to mediate between the information models of every consumer and every service that must talk to each other. Get two or more services and consumers involved, and it simply increases in complexity.

In the next entry, Jeff discusses the fact that SOA will challenge the organizational structure of SOA. How are organizations supposed to address these challenges? He suggests forming an SOA Steering Committee. The committee consists of a cross-discipline team of people who are normally thinking in enterprise terms, rather than project-specific. Importantly, however, he emphasizes that this committee must interact with their project-specific counterparts. That is, the enterprise architect works with application architects. The portfolio analyst works with the project analyst. The PMO rep works with the project manager, and so on. An important aspect of this group is that they can make enterprise decisions as things progress with SOA. An enterprise architect trying to drive SOA on his or her own isn’t left trying to find an open ear when they determine that organizational change is needed, or that a project should be split into multiple projects.

In part 3 (I don’t know if he has more parts planned!), he gets into a more sensitive and difficult area: money. The most important thing that he introduces here is the simple notion that the funding model has to change. Where funding was previously all about getting the “application” completed, we now need models that fund shared items- shared services, shared infrastructure. This shouldn’t be new to organizations, as shared infrastructure is certainly something that they should be dealing with today, this now just extends it into the application development domain.

It’s good to get back to the basics every now and then. Those of us that are out there commenting on this on a regular basis can get into modes where the only other people who care about what we’re saying are other commentators, and not everyone is at that point.

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