Apologies for abusing a well know line from ‘Star Trek’ by which Dr ‘Bones’ regularly classified all life forms that didn’t quite fit the standard definition of life written round the human form. This on its own will provoke abuse from ‘Trekies’ for it’s out of context use, and from others for using the line at all. And therein lays the point around how should we use the term SOA, or ‘Service Oriented Architecture’.

The ‘SOA’s, (Trekies?), are purists who steadfast in their wish to see SOA used correctly in order to gain all the long term benefits that properly defined use will bring, and are concerned bad implementations will kill SOA. The others just want a quick fix for delivering faster, cheaper and at lower risk the current project, and the long term is out of scope.
The Open Group, one of the foremost bodies working on the topic, have just held their ‘IT Architecture Practitioners Conference’ in Barcelona. SOA sessions were filled to standing room only capacity, and a new, wholly more important debate started. Should we define an SOA implementation by whether there has been an extensive re-design of the business process in an original manner to take advantage of the capabilities of SOA, or is it just a technology delivery method?
This is serious stuff, and thinking about some of the companies that are usually mentioned as the ‘internet’ survivors who challenged, and changed, the market it’s possible to see that this is what they have done, and are continuing to do.
The low cost airlines that are enjoying great success, reforming the travel market are a good example. They connect to their customers, and their trading partners, such as airports, airline agents, etc. in a process driven manner, not thru’ application silo integration. There is no hard divide between external and internal functions, every stage uses the connectivity of the Internet, and the standardization of the Web in one flow process from buying the seat, printing the boarding pass, presenting the pass at the airport and the gate. The architecture of the business is a connected horizontal process, encompassing people, and companies, by using ‘Services’, and not a series of internal silo applications based on historic departmental boundaries connected via data transfers that attempt to bridge the divided functions.
The ‘Services’ process is interactive, dynamic with the ability to ‘optimize’ the date, and cost of travel, suiting both buyer, and supplier, using the law of supply and demand to mutual advantage. It reduces complexity, and time, for all involved in the airport check in, and boarding processes. Compare that with buying the same old ticket from a traditional airline on the web as opposed to in a travel shop!
Does this make them users of SOA? You better bet it does, because if this is the answer, then Businesses are going to really want SOA for business advantage, that in turn make the technology vendors’ dreams for a new golden age of IT come true.