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Case Study: Success with SOA at CISCO

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Harvinder Kalsi, lead architect of the SOA/BPM domain at Cisco, presented a case study at the SOA Consortium’s December meeting in Santa Clara on adopting a holistic SOA approach to support Cisco's Commerce Transformation Iniative which aims at transforming Cisco from a network gear vendor to a solution vendor.


Harvinder sees SOA as being:

the policies, principles and frameworks that enable business capabilities to be provided and consumed as sets of services.

he emphasizes:

The Services in SOA are business services ... updating a customer quote is a business service, updating a record in a database isn't.

In his opinion, we are at a turning poing for SOA. He argues that as of 2008, standard and technologies are quite mature while the business interest is growing. In this case study the business was the main driver behind developing an SOA.

They established their SOA strategy using a four step maturity process:

  1. Service enable legacy systems
  2. create a business service layer
  3. Achieve business process excellence
  4. Provide visibility into the business

They see several benefits generated by a SOA approach:

  • Reusability
  • Agility
  • Minimal impact to change

Ultimately, in his views SOA enables taking the functionality that Cisco has in house and offer it to its partner ecosystem, extending the benefits to the entire supply chain.

He notes that there is however a lot of skepticism.

People do not believe it can happen.

In particular he sees that SOA has inherent challenges:

  • Availabilitity (SLA)
  • Performance
  • Security (and identity propagation)
  • Operational Excellence
  • Governance

Ultimately the hardest part of the Commerce Transformation Initiative was that their legacy systems make it difficult.

Harvinder describes in great detail the capabilities that Cisco developed as part of its SOA initiative. Most of these elements have been developed in in 2007 and 2008:

Service Development Framework

  • This is standardized service development environment
  • They experienced a 20-30% reduction in service development
  • This was a key element of their Operations & Management framework
  • It supports Web 2.0 (JSon, REST)

SOA Dashboard

  • Manages service performance, gateway & consumer perspective
  • Monitors SLA and exceptions
  • Provide runtime dependencies
  • Supports drill down on transactions

SOA Registry

  • One stop shop for publishing, discovering and subscribing to services
  • Master repository for all services within Cisco
  • Key to enable SOA governance
  • UDDI v2
  • Integrated with other SOA Platform Components

SOA Gateway

  • Cisco is using its own products
  • Security Policy Administration and Enforcement
  • XML Firewall
  • Protocol bridging
  • Visibility into services performance and exception

Business Rules Management

  • Methodology and tools
  • High performance runtime engine that supports rete algorithm

SOA Governance

  • Technical policies & standards
  • Templates for service definition
  • Processes

Harvinder concludes that

  • People, process and technologies make SOA successful
  • Business readiness is challenging at times
  • Architect BPM/SOA platform for the enterprise
  • Focus on high availability and performance
  • Initial success stories help with enterprise adoption

Are you following the same path as Cisco? Do you see the business driving more and more the need for an elaborate Service Oriented Architecture foundation, especially the trend of exposing (Business) Services-as-a-Software?

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