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Architects of SOA success

by Frank Martinez
June 7th, 2004

A tidal wave of SOA is about to hit corporate IT. This year will be remembered as the period when everyone got on the SOA bandwagon. Early successes with SOA implementation are blanketing the media. Every major IT vendor — Microsoft, IBM, SAP, Siebel, etc — is using SOA (real or perceived) as its strategy moving forward. We are already seeing the beginning of "SOA Chaos" — hundreds of developers unleashing tens of thousands of web services that will dwarf today's control and scalability issues.

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The new Chief Architect realizes that SOA success happens for business, as well as for technical, reasons.

Frank Martinez is the CTO, chairman and co-founder 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.

Glossary terms: SOA, composite application, service-oriented, lookup tool

Sitting at the precipice of this mountainous change is the Chief Architect, an emerging executive role in corporations tasked with bridging the gap between IT and business management. The Chief Architect is a trusted resource to both executives and technologists, championing IT innovation for increased business responsiveness and profitability.

The common perception is that the Architect is an academician focused exclusively on standards and best practices, far removed from the opportunities and challenges of marrying IT with the business. A new type of Chief Architect is emerging. Major enterprises are leveraging Chief Architects because they need someone who understands how technology affects business. As Chief Architects look for ways to simplify and maximize the benefits of increasingly complex enterprise environments, solutions that marry near-term technology "demands" with long-term architecture and design "needs" will be held at a premium. Chief Architects know that only well-designed enterprise architectures can aggregate these needs in a cost-effective, elegant and scaleable fashion.

Following are three examples from Global 100 enterprises that demonstrate how the new Chief Architect is driving innovation with enterprise SOA:

  • Top 5 Wall Street bank: The Chief Architect designed and built an SOA-based risk management application that achieved a previously unreachable goal: tying together far-flung backend data sources of credit risk and fraud into a single composite application which is then easily reused across many consuming applications such as new account systems and monitoring systems. The solution addressed a major regulatory compliance concern and lowered overall corporate financial risk. The solution is well realized technically, but what is interesting is how the Chief Architect got it into production. The line of business application owner balked at accepting this project without first investigating alternatives, especially those that revolved around the vendors and technology he was familiar with. For the Chief Architect, SOA was the only approach that could realize the short-term line of business needs and long-term enterprise-wide reuse. The Chief Architect had one more thing — the mandate of the CIO, and the budget influence to realize the project. The project went into production, and is exceeding line of business expectations.

  • Fortune 50 consumer electronics: This Chief Architect's challenge was to drive reuse of core services (search, customer data) across autonomous operating divisions that do not typically interoperate. The challenge was technically straightforward but politically challenging. Instead of over-architecting systems and infrastructure, and dictating standards and practices, the Chief Architect focused on driving a culture of sharing by sponsoring technology summits, building a basic SOA infrastructure and offering a set of utilities that would allow developers across operating units to test, deploy and begin to benefit from shared services. The result brought unexpectedly large reuse, and began to change the focus from "application developers" to "service providers and consumers."

  • Fortune 50 pharmaceuticals: The company had been deploying web services for two years, driving reuse of application development while improving interoperability. The Chief Architect saw the impending chaos of new data, process and management silos that would emerge without a coherent enterprise SOA strategy. The challenge he faced was how to deploy this SOA infrastructure enterprise-wide without cramping local autonomy, and with the support of business units throughout the company. By picking a strategic use case — a service-oriented approvals portal that made executives daily work lives easier, and that provided immediate, tangible impact on operations — the Chief Architect was able to fund the infrastructure, demonstrate the power of SOA and begin to change developer behavior.

These three examples demonstrate that technology is not the primary impediment towards realizing enterprise SOA today. The new Chief Architect realizes that SOA success happens for business, as well as for technical, reasons. The visionary thinking and actions of the Chief Architect enable them to leverage the most innovative technology but implement it within specific business needs in politically savvy methods.

Forward-thinking Chief Architects are moving their SOA architecture towards a truly adaptive infrastructure that leverages resources and systems for economies that culminate in competitive strength. Scalable service-oriented infrastructure solutions are emerging that help Chief Architects evolve towards a service-based architecture that unlocks IT's potential: enabling constant change as a strategic weapon for a truly business-responsive IT organization.

Based upon their ability to deliver upon these objectives, the Chief Architect's strategic importance to the organization will increase. As the technology industry rebounds and begins to identify new applications and strategies that will drive business innovation, Chief Architects will lead the charge.

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