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Where Is SOA Going?

SOA principles drive new focus.

By Bob Rhubart

January/February 2016

Service-oriented architecture (SOA) has been a topic of conversation among IT professionals since before phones got smart and the word cloud referred to something other than airborne water vapor. While the basic concept of SOA hasn’t really changed, perceptions and practices around implementing SOA continue to evolve.

Services are everywhere, and with this burst of cloud, mobile, and API initiatives, SOA couldn’t be in better shape. ”–Rolando Carrasco,
SOA Principal Architect and Co-Owner, S&P Solutions

To get a sense of how that evolution is playing out among people who work in SOA, I put the following question to the community via an Oracle Technology Network discussion forum: Where is SOA going?

As it happens, three of the most detailed responses came from the authors of the book Oracle API Management 12c Implementation. That’s particularly fitting, given that their book’s general subject matter, API management—always a factor in SOA—has taken on even greater significance as the use of cloud-based services becomes increasingly prevalent in enterprise IT.

Oracle ACE Director Luis Weir, the book’s lead author and the principal architect at HCL Industries, is confident of a solid and rosy future for SOA as an architectural concept. But he thinks how we talk about it is changing.

“SOA has been reborn in the form of ‘digital technologies’ such as IoT [Internet of Things], API management, microservices, and cloud integration solutions,” Weir says.

Among those digital technologies, API management looms large as a connecting thread. In a post on his blog, Weir defines the term API management as “the discipline that governs the software development lifecycle of APIs. It defines the tools and processes needed to build, publish, and operate APIs.” Given that APIs provide the means for connection and interaction between services—in the cloud and elsewhere—the elevated role API management plays in today’s SOA is understandable.

As SOA evolves, organizations that engage in SOA must reinvent themselves, which includes investing in aligning staff skills with the new tools and techniques.

Will stakeholders need much of a push on that investment? Maybe not.

While SOA has become one initiative among many, observes Oracle ACE and S&P Solutions SOA Principal Architect and Co-Owner Rolando Carrasco, one of Weir’s Oracle API Management 12c Implementation coauthors, “it has become the initiative that allows other initiatives to exist and survive by virtue of the SOA vision and the values it brings to organizations.”

In that sense, SOA has arrived, says Carrasco. “But it will continue to be a good bet for IT in terms of having a well-organized and modern enterprise.” He cites SOA principles and discipline as key to the success of any API management initiative or cloud integration project. “SOA is a way of life for the consultants,” says Carrasco. “Services are everywhere, and with this burst of cloud, mobile, and API initiatives, SOA couldn’t be in better shape.”

Oracle ACE Associate Arturo Viveros, senior IT architect at S&P Solutions and another Oracle API Management 12c Implementation coauthor, offers his own variation on SOA’s future. While he believes that SOA is no longer an ultimate goal for organizations or IT departments, that’s not to suggest that SOA has ceased to be important. “Rather, it has become an enabler for modernization and digital transformation through mobile, cloud computing, the API economy, hybrid architecture, BPM [business process management], and other technologies,” says Viveros. “And contrary to what many predicted 5 to 10 years ago, service orientation not only has remained in the mainstream, but it has even demonstrated its staying power by giving way to popular spin-offs such as microservice architecture.”

That’s cause for celebration among SOA professionals, Viveros explains, “because it has coerced both the paradigm and its related tools into becoming highly dynamic, versatile, adaptable, and business-driven, as opposed to the monolithic nature of first-generation SOA implementations.”

These three pros have seen the evolution of SOA from the trenches, and that experience has shaped their strategy. Where do you think SOA is going, and what are you doing to be ready when that door opens? Share your thoughts.

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