Alternative drives for SOA

During the Øredev conference we talked around the drivers for SOA. It then struck me that most common drivers for a SOA initiative is a large enterprise that is trying to align their business goals as well as cutting IT costs (or at least that is the organisation described in most texts and discussions). During my work however I have found two other interesting drivers for SOA initiatives.

We are currently working with an organisation who have had a single monolithic system written and owned by one provider. The relationship with this provider have not been that easy and the quality of the system has been poor at times. This have highlighted the need to be able to spread the risks amongst several vendors. The services the organisation is in need of will need to be highly specialised so they will not be able to buy any modules of the shelf. SOA will still provide them with the opportunity to invite several vendors that can each create the services they are most suited to create. This will spread the risks and make it possible for them to change provider of a service if the quality or relationship goes bad with another.

In my previous position as an architect with ProcServe we started an initiative to SOA aline the software that is used to deliver the service ProcServe provides. The main drivers for this were two. ProcServe is a service company, making money by delivering an e-procurement solution that will help the customers to save money in the organisation. The software stack is built on both Microsoft .Net and Java technology as well as using several COTS products. We needed to provide a simple way for all the applications to integrate as well as making it possible to reuse as much as possible so SOA was a natural choice from a purely technical standpoint. This also aligned well with business need to make it possible to deliver functionality into customers back-end systems and portals. The SOA stack that we built made it easy to expose services to customers as they were needed.

The above examples shows other strong drivers for SOA initiatives that are not often discussed. The first example is inspiring in that it mitigates risks that many larger organisations are suffering from if they have been unlucky enough to buy into a technology stack that soon after fails or where the provider goes out of business. SOA provides a very real way to remove such risks and could also make it a more level play field for large and small vendors. This is especially true in the public sector.

The second example is every technologists dream. The driver is a purely technical one where the need is elegance and simplicity. The fact that it is later discovered to be a way to help the business expand and a way to serve customer better make it even better.