Text support-In conversation with Norbert Bieberstein & Rawn Shah

Service-Oriented Architecture Compass: Business Value, Planning and Enterprise Roadmap
4 out of 5 stars

Bieberstein, Bose, Fiammante, Jones and Shah’s book, Service-Oriented Architecture Compass: Business Value, Planning and Enterprise Roadmap is geared to both the technically and business-minded person who wants to understand how SOA presents a way towards business agility combined with technical flexibility. It is well-written and goes beyond the general discussion of other books looking at the same macro issues, as it has a heavy technical focus accompanying the business discussion.

I recently spoke with leading author Norbert Bieberstein, solution architect for IBM Enterprise Integration, and co-author Rawn Shah, community editor for IBM developerWorks.

Would you say that we are at an information crossroads at this moment? If so, please explain.

We are actually at a crossroads on how companies and organizations are structured. In our book, we advocate the idea that SOA is not just a change to how information and data services are presented and delivered, but also how teams within organizations are structured. The key thoughts are agility, specialization and reuse, not just of data but of team members and skills.

Why is it important for an enterprise to adopt a global ecosystem approach to building the sort of platform that focuses on the lifecycle of IT-driven services?

In an ecosystem, each unit finds a place within the grand picture. Yet even in ecosystems, there is growth, competition, partnership, specialization, adaptability and versatility. These are the behaviours that we think are becoming more important in business and hence in IT services. It is the knowledge that many units can rely on others to provide specific functions as needed. The exploration, discovery, partnership or competition with these services is what makes the ecosystem vibrant. What is more, the adaptable nature of an ecosystem is absolutely crucial in a time when business models and the industry are shifting at such a quick pace today.

In what way do you feel service-oriented architecture (SOA) is the way forward?

SOA embodies those ideas of an agile enterprise ecosystem. It is how individual units (people or software), each focusing on their own particular service (specialization), can be aggregated (cooperatively or competitively) to provide the necessary components for an overall goal. The flexibility comes from being able to constitute each of these in different ways to explore or implement new services. A strong facilitator is Web services standards.

How have things changed from the ’80s and ’90s when the enterprise data model required enormous effort and left many lost in the minutiae?

It is true that the fundamental idea of components is not new. There have been other approaches before to build an IT platform to allow flexibly assembling and re-assembling of components to solve certain business issues in IT such as the CORBA from the Object Management Group. However, these enterprise-wide information and data models were attempts to govern all items in an enterprise from a single organization. I would compare it more to the traditional hierarchical organizational structure of corporations, applied to software systems. This is a top-down approach and requires a lot of planning and bureaucracy; I would even dare say it’s a power function of how many different IT systems, departments, etc. that your enterprise has. Often people were lost in details as the focus got blurred.

Some would claim that the same could be said about services models (i.e., a top-down structure). However, our approach to SOA shows that you can follow a roadmap, start small, and arrange for managing the services, as well as the people. This suggests that it can be a bottom-up approach, top-down, or even somewhere in the middle.

Therefore SOA governance is given high attention as the whole journey is under executive monitoring. The advantage now is that you do not wait for the complete model to be finished at the enterprise level – it probably never will be. Instead, you evolve your services landscape.

carolyn@fineprintonline.com

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