SOA Mandates Data Management

By Evan Levy

I've always said that the focus on SOA is too much on the "A" for "architecture." The whole idea of SOA is to define application functions and services that need to be accessible to other systems. Prior to SOA, it was always hairy to move data from one system to another.

 But everyone thinks that SOA is an integration framework. In fact it's a means of remotely accessing other systems and their related information without having to know the details. For instance, I don't need to know how my cell phone number was assigned; I just need to remember that number so I can share it with my friends.

As I've said before, SOA is the evolutionary result of all the middleware companies trying to convince us to buy their hardware-independent products. SOA's ability to business flexibility today is just as remote as the code objects of decade ago promising to make business more nimble. SOA isn't a business term. It's a technical term for technical people to focus on re-use, standard parts, and standardized processes.

Companies turning to SOA are looking for the holy grail. Consider the emergence of the term "SOA governance" to address the conundrum of SOA development planning. The core issue is how to simplify developers' work in building applications without having to understand the technical details and obstacles in between. Just because I have advanced features and functions doesn't mean I don't still have to focus on software development fundamentals. Design reviews, code re-use, and development standards still matter.

The real challenge with implementing any kind of web service, or defining services that can be re-used, is in ensuring that the data they are dependent on is well-defined. Unfortunately there is no such thing as a business process that is data-independent. Until you've standardized your data, which means implementing data management and maintaining data in a sustainable way, you can't have re-usable services. Period.

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About Evan Levy

Evan Levy is management consultant and partner at IntegralData. In addition to his day-to-day job responsibilities, Evan speaks, writes, and blogs about the challenges of managing and using data to support business decision making.

3 responses to “SOA Mandates Data Management”

  1. Steve Tuck says :

    The is such a common issue, Evan – technical gobbledegook getting in the way of business improvement. I absolutely agree that sustainable data management is a fundamental requirement, but in my own experience, re-usable services can be part of the solution – provided that the data governance processes are in place and the business needs are well understood.

  2. Joe Baird says :

    Evan –
    This is the only SOA-related reading I’ve doe this morning that is not tool-centric.
    Your comments are dead on … it is just too bad the term “Service Oriented Architecture” and the acronym “SOA” were ever coined — they seem useful only for ESB and EAI to0l vendors hoping to introduce ambiguity and confusion as they promise the moon while hiding the fact that Governance is out of their control

  3. evan levy says :

    Joe makes an interesting remark regarding the “control” of SOA Governance.
    I think one of the challenges that every IT organization has to address is that any sort of resource sharing requires some amount of cooperation between the individuals (or parties) sharing the resource. This what governance is all about — supporting the coexistence and sharing of resources by individuals with common needs.
    All too often a single development group designs and implements their own set of services only to learn of another group that has built their own set of conflicting “enterprise services”. SOA Governance doesn’t just address resolving conflict — it provides an entire framework for introducing, communicating, defining, building, and fixing services.
    Show me an organization that goes off and purchases an set of SOA infrastructure technologies without investing in governance, and I’ll show you an organization that has lots of individual services that aren’t shared.

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