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SOA as an Ecosystem

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According to Richard Veryard’s recent post:

The SOA world is finally catching up with some of the ecosystem ideas... the biological approach to creating business and software services

According to Richard, this approach is radically different from solution-driven approach to SOA. In this case, instead of defining services based on the requirements of the specific solution, they are defined based on an ecosystem that they belong to ( compare to top-down vs bottom-up service design approaches). Richard considers moving from solution-driven SOA to a SOA Ecosystem a phase of SOA maturity. He presents the following three maturity levels:


  • Experimental SOA driven by a specific solution and involving the following steps:
    • Identifying the business problem
    • Identifying the users for this solution
    • Negotiating the requirements for the solution
    • Designing and Implementing the solution
  • Enterprise SOA driven by a generic solution and involving the following steps:
    • Identifying the business domain
    • Identifying the business domain users
    • Defining domain-specific requirements
    • Designing and implementing the solution kit for a specific business domain
  • Ecosystem SOA driven by evolution and involving the following steps:
    • Identifying the ecosystem
    • Identifying the services specific for the ecosystem
    • Distributing the service implementations between ecosystem’s participants

One of the main differences between Enterprise and Ecosystem SOA is the approach to service portfolio definition. A typical portfolio, in the case of Enterprise SOA, is based on the enterprise business model that identifies the capabilities of the enterprise. In the case of Ecosystem SOA, the business model is additionally subdivided into Core (Strategic), Competence and Peripheral domains. The Core is always designed as a set of services, implemented by the enterprise, Competence is typically split between enterprise and its partners and Peripheral is typically outsourced to partners.

As a result, Ecosystem SOA not only encompasses service decomposition but additionally allows an enterprise to concentrate on its core function and build business processes with its partners to support other functionality.

Richard defines two main approaches to Ecosystem SOA:

... one approach to Ecosystem SOA is to push out from the enterprise into the ecosystem. John Hagel calls this Inside-Out Architecture, which he contrasts with Outside-In Architecture... An Outside-In Architecture starts with a model of (the flows of) knowledge and value in the ecosystem as a whole. The strategic question for an enterprise is how to find way of both contributing value to the ecosystem, and drawing value from the ecosystem, through the provision of ecologically viable services.

No enterprise is an island. As a result, it is difficult to define a set of enterprise services without considering functionality/services/processes provided by enterprise’s partners. The Ecosystem approach described in Richard’s post can help to define enterprise specific service architecture while considering a holistic picture.

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