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The building blocks of SOA

Think about each building block as a service, as a business task.

If you think about service orientation and service-oriented architecture, the key word there is service. A couple of examples of services are simple business tasks. So it could be checking someone's credit.
It could be opening an account. It could be setting up a gift registry and the different pieces that are involved in setting up a gift registry. Checking whether an item is in stock or not would be a simple service. Every business, regardless of industry, has those services.
Let’s try a really simple way to think about service orientation. I have two small girls and they play with building blocks. And you can think about each building block as a service, as a business task. Now, you could take each of those building blocks and put them together. Because they all fit together and they fit together flexibly, you can assemble and reassemble them on the fly. You could take some building blocks and I could take some building blocks and we would build something different. So even though you have business services, or tasks, that might seem the same, the way you put them together gives you your competitive advantage. That would be service orientation. The underlying infrastructure, service-oriented architecture, is how you put those blocks together.

SOA creates a language that business and IT can use to talk to each other.

What service-oriented architecture does, it creates a language that business and IT can use to talk to each other. And that language is a business process. So the business analyst looks at the process, simulates the process and then bridging that chasm is — through software or through IT — is the code that then converts it into a language that the IT person then understands.
It does codify the role between and the linkage between business and IT. It elevates both roles, versus taking one down or one up. It kind of puts them on equal ground and gives you a way to communicate at each other. It protects you from the syndrome of rewrite, revise, re-everything.
Flexible business requires flexible IT. The most successful companies that are coming and starting to implement are those that come to the summits with their line-of-business exec and their IT exec together, coming hand in hand. It helps them get funding. It helps them get buy-in and by starting with that business process in mind, it helps you to insure that you’re mirror imaging the business process with IT.

Service orientation is all about reuse.

Service orientation is all about reuse, reuse, reuse. And to be cost-effective and to deliver value fast, you have to be able to use the systems that you have built and used for years and years and years.
You do not want to leave them out of the equation. So for our definition of service-oriented architecture, that reuse factor, the combination of using web services plus what you have existing is a key differentiator, is a very important part of the strategy.
Standard Life is a large insurer based out of the U.K. And they had different product development groups around the company, and they were not sharing their resources, not sharing services. They adopted a service-oriented architecture approach, not only driving the business up but also now providing reuse for over 250 different business services.
Culturally, in their company, they rewarded for new development. They did not reward for reuse. Well, think about that.
That is a cultural difference that you have to make at your company. Now, what is valued is creating a service that could be reused by many people, not necessarily get a new patent because you created it and did it a different way.
And we think a combination of building new with web services and also leveraging your existing assets is a critical part of this decision.

The future of SOA

If you are a company that wants to grow, service orientation is one of the ways to do it, because what it allows you to do is more flexibly link into your business partners, make changes and respond to the market.
Service-oriented architecture is the DNA for all On Demand Businesses. So if your goal, sitting there today, is to become an On Demand Business, you really can not reach the ultimate potential of that goal without the flexibility that a service-oriented architecture brings to the table.