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SPECIAL REPORT: Service Oriented Architecture

SOA: Evolving Challenges
SOA faces a number of challenges as it moves from conceptual guidelines to practical mainstream use.
*Architecture: A 12 Letter Word For Having A Plan
*Establishing Common Ground
*SOA: Health Care Enabler
*SOA: Evolving Challenges
*Governing Principles
*SOA Improves Services [Online bonus material]
*SOA: Service-Oriented Architecture [PDF]
Understanding leads to implementation. Understanding SOA however has not been easy. It is shared services? Is it software reuse? Does it mean I lose control of my system?  Implementing SOA is filled with challenges.
 

Understanding the relationship between EA and SOA and then using both of those to improve mission performance is a real challenge according to Scott Bernard, Deputy CIO at the Federal Railroad Administration during the Federal Executive Forum on SOA.

 

“SOA is a good way to integrate the business data and application levels into that enterprise wide architecture. And there are a lot of mature best practices now on how to do SOA within the context of EA,” explained Bernard. “The other challenge is getting executives to be involved with the architecture and to support it and understand the value of the SOA effort within the EA context.” Kshemendra Paul, Chief Architect at OMB agrees. “Looking at it from the OMB perspective, we see things across government as well as across all the different management processes,” declared Paul. “We want to break down the barriers and break down the silos.”

 

Paul warns that we need to guard against siloing of management processes in areas such as the strategic planning activity, the program performance analysis, the architecture activity, the capital planning, the budgeting,
program oversight and year over year sort of analysis.“We need to make sure that the outcomes at each step of those processes are linked to the next step. That’s how we move out of the compliance sort of architecture to the results oriented architecture, by making those linkages clear,” counseled Paul.

 

Partners In Progress

SOA is not a government only activity. To make it work takes solutions from the private sector. One of those companies involved in making SOA work is Red Hat. According to Craig Muzilla, VP of Red Hat’s Middleware Business Unit, some of the challenges from an industry side deal with the evolution of the technology that is working to catch up with some of the government’s real-life needs. "Things like security and some of the standards associated with SOA are still evolving,” said Muzilla. “But some of the biggest challenges are within the organizations that use SOA. For instance what granularity of service, how do you define the service? Is it really defined in such a manner that can be reused? Who has control over that service? Who has the rights and access to that service?” It’s not easy for executives to give up the control over resources they deem important to the success of their mission. It’s hard for them to say “I’m going to have to trust an external organization that’s going to provision a service, and manage to a service level, as opposed to managing directly people and other resources.

 

SOA is a good way to integrate the business data and
application levels into that enterprise wide architecture.
And there are a lot of mature best practices now on how
to do SOA within the context of EA.

 

“A lot of the time as you are moving towards SOA is really spent on some of those organizational issues, some of those definitional issues,” added Muzilla. But when you do a shift to SOA you can end up having individual business units that end up provisioning a shared service that become a center of excellence or a shared service center because they deliver a particular service at a high quality.

 

As a result they essentially become an IT support organization and they have to learn to behave that way, develop the customer service, guarantee a particular service level and that doesn’t come automatically. It requires training; it requires a governance framework that requires appropriate policies and incentives to help manage that cultural shift.