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SOA Still Not Dead: Ratification of Governance Standard Highlights SOA’s Continued Relevance

by Richard Seroter on Oct 31, 2012 |

The Open Group recently announced that their SOA Governance Framework was accepted as an international standard following a vote by the International Organization for Standardization (IOC) and International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). The ratification came at the end of a six month review period and marks a continued relevance of SOA principles in today’s technology solutions.

The SOA Governance Framework is designed to be a vendor-neutral, technology-neutral reference model that organizations use as a foundation for implementing an SOA. The Framework, originally published in 2009, has a few key components as described in the Open Group blog post.

The framework includes a standard governance reference model and a mechanism for enterprises to customize and implement the compliance, dispensation and communication processes that are appropriate for them. Long term vitality is an essential part of the framework, and it gives guidance on evolving these processes over time in the light of changing business and technical circumstances, ensuring the on-going alignment of business and IT.

The meat of this framework is the SOA Governance Reference Model (SGRM). The model starts out with a series of Governance Guiding Principles that suggest the use of service contracts and metadata, and require the use of a SOA reference architecture. The model then highlights a series of SOA processes including service portfolio management, service lifecycle management, solution portfolio management, and solution lifecycle management. Finally, the model identifies organizational roles and responsibilities, as well as artifacts that should be created to support an SOA.

Why does this Framework matter? Mike Walker, an Enterprise Architect at Microsoft, points out the value of having an internationally-recognized reference model available at the start of an SOA effort.

Having a standard way of addressing SOA governance is not only an accelerant to companies but also allows them to:

  • Leverage a universally accepted and trusted framework
  • Exposure to an evolving framework that is leveraged by many companies that contribute to the Open Group with best practices,  guidance and standards
  • Eventually tap into a network of SOA practitioners that understand the standard without training
  • Potential for certifications to validate competencies and skills

Walker likes this model for its attention to more than just the technical domains of an organization.

What I really like about this model is that SOA Governance is viewed as the application of Corporate Governance, IT Governance and EA Governance to Service Oriented Architecture. This shows that SOA Governance extends IT and EA Governance ensuring that the benefits that SOA extols are met. This requires governing not only the execution aspects of SOA but also the strategic planning activities.

In the modern area of REST services and cloud computing, has SOA become less relevant? Not according to a panel hosted by the Open Group. Chris Harding, who is the Director of Interoperability for the Open Group, assumed that the longstanding SOA Work Group would begin to fade out, but he has actually seen renewed interest in SOA. Nikhil Kumar, the Co-Chair of the SOA Reference Architecture projects, believes that the resurgence of interest in SOA is driven by three things.

One is the advent of the cloud and mobile, which requires a lot of cross-platform delivery of consistent services. The second is emerging technologies, mobile, big data, and the need to be able to look at data across multiple contexts.

The third thing that’s driving it is legacy modernization. A lot of organizations are now a lot more comfortable with SOA concepts. I see it in a number of our customers. I've just been running a large enterprise architecture initiative in a Fortune 500 customer.

At each stage, and at almost every point in that, they're now comfortable. They feel that SOA can provide the ability to rationalize multiple platforms. They're restructuring organizational structures, delivery organizations, as well as targeting their goals around a service-based platform capability.

So legacy modernization is a back-to-the-future kind of thing that has come back and is getting adoption. The way it's being implemented is using RESTful services, as well as SOAP services, which is different from traditional SOA, say from the last version, which was mostly SOAP-driven.

While the Open Group is best known for its TOGAF methodology for Enterprise Architecture, they have continued to regularly publish standards for SOA while also producing reference material for cloud computing practitioners.

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I never understood why people said SOA was dead by Ethar Alali

Maybe I have been too long under a rock, which is possible, but I have never understood why filibusters in the industry ever considered SOA 'dead'. The only way this could happen is if it was regarded as a technical solution, which it very definitely isn't.

We have to remember that SOA is really a style of enterprise architecture, where the business services are aligned directly with the platform solutions that are created. Some of the things that cloud computing provides are platform and infrastructure services to allow that to happen, REST provides a mechanism of delivery of the semantics of services (each delivers the semantics of a physical application component in an EA). None of these are incompatible with the SOA style, nor have they every been.

Indeed, I could argue to do away with SOA effectively means that you would need to do away with the alignment of business value in service projects altogether as what are they aligned to? Stories? If so, what are the stories/features/epics aligned to? What product owners (business divisions) own them? If you can answer any of those questions, then I could argue that you are delivering business function aligned to business 'services', whos proxy is the business owner. This is really what you do when you deliver any type of project, even agile projects.

So what have I missed? :-)

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