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Avoid Dead-End SOAs
Architects must adopt a services-network approach to properly manage Web service complexity.
by Frank Martinez

September 15, 2004

As companies begin to build service-oriented architectures that leverage their initial Web services efforts, chief architects know they must balance near-term project success with long-term infrastructure reliability and performance. Unless they adopt the proper architectural path, chaos and unmanageable complexity will reign, and the goals of SOA—increased business agility, enterprise-wide process, and data integration—will never be realized.

Tomorrow's enterprise-scale SOA will consist of thousands of distributed Web services, orchestrated individually or in concert, in countless ways, to respond quickly and cheaply to changing business conditions. Picture the challenge: coordinating thousands of services, shared across hundreds of projects, in scores of business units, spanning dozens of domains.

Vendors in many established and emerging markets are promoting new products that promise to help enterprises meet this challenge and organize the services onslaught into a coordinated SOA. Unfortunately, this rush of new products has cluttered the market with confusion, compounding the challenge. Several key emerging offerings are vying to meet the SOA challenge (see Table 1).

Without a planned path toward an SOA, the simultaneous adoption of these solutions is likely to compound the challenge. First, the short-term focus of most large IT organizations will lead to multiple deployments of each of these approaches, as enterprises deploy Web services to solve immediate problems. This ad-hoc approach to Web services adoption will lead to inconsistency between departments, lines of business, and geographies, causing service policy silos and a lack of interoperability. This will limit much of the benefit of the SOA by discouraging service reuse and limiting adoption. Second, each of these approaches contains hidden pitfalls with architectural limitations that can prevent enterprise-scale SOA implementation (see Table 2).

The Services Network is the Solution
Companies can achieve near-term project wins for lines of business and simultaneously build toward a reliable, global SOA by choosing another path to SOA: the services network. A services network takes a distributed networking approach to solve what is fundamentally a networking problem—enabling reliable, consistent, and predictable communication among Web services deployed across a distributed enterprise.

The network guarantees service interoperability across boundaries (encouraging service sharing and reuse), and scales easily across the enterprise, ultimately delivering the promise of SOA. Best of all, a services network can sit atop any of the alternative approaches listed, unifying isolated departmental Web services projects, and creating a single shared enterprise-scale SOA.

By adopting a services-network approach, IT can avoid rip-and-replace scenarios and evolve its enterprise into an SOA that delivers for both line-of-business owners and for IT. Yet to succeed, architects must proactively drive for adoption now, before the chaos of services and silos hits the enterprise.

To begin, architects need to be well-versed on the particular paths toward building SOAs so they can articulate the various risks and opportunities to company stakeholders. Learn more about services networks and the advantages they provide in this ongoing "SOA Insights" column in Enterprise Architect.

About the Author
Frank Martinez is the CTO, chairman, and cofounder of Blue Titan Software, a provider of service-oriented infrastructure that helps enterprise architects control, share, and scale applications, driving business innovation across the distributed enterprise.

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