Over the years architecture and its implementation have proven to be vastly important, especially when it comes to changing business needs and market conditions. Typically such a process comes as a result of connecting various services and systems so they best meet specific needs. In the past such action was rather involved and complicated, but thanks to Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), there's been some relief.
Traditional architectural/implementation methods have their good points, but for the most part they're showing their age. Generally speaking, the general focus of these endeavors is usually directed toward an enterprise IT strategy and little attention is paid to the complexities involved in its implementation. Without such forethought, those involved must figure out the best way to implement the strategy later on, which can end up taking up time better used elsewhere. What Is more, these approaches tend to be fairly restrictive and rigid in nature. Proper functionality demands the use of direct interfaces between every two services, systems or a combination of the two. Subsequently there are a lot of extras involved in use of conventional methods and they aren't always the good kind. In specific, there's the extra time and work spent figuring out implementation then manually updating/modifying systems according to business needs and changing conditions and the overall cost that these tasks incur. Keep in mind that these tasks must be repeated every time something changes.
What sets SOA apart from traditional methodology? In a nutshell, SOA allows for both architecture and its implementation. The process involves loosely coupling services and systems for easy interoperability and better/quicker adaptation to changes. As for the architectural piece, services cannot exist on their own. They must be layered over other resources in a bigger structure. Think of an encompassing architectural approach which yields long term benefits and support. Subsequently, things like service composition, and model-driven implementation are possible. The advantage of such an approach can easily culminate in flexible and effective and dynamic solutions that accommodate business needs as they arise. Furthermore, SOA allows for things like reusability, avoidance of redundant functionality, reusability, and better project management in an easy to build process.
That being said, SOA has run into some challenges of its own and not all of them are well documented. Expense, for example, plays a key role. Tools and infrastructure are a big investment that must be planned out and carefully considered. At the same time, it can be difficult to identify potential problems and address them as early and as quickly as possible. Such a situation is hard to predict given that each instance can be different. Still, with its improvements in scale, heterogeneity support and governance, the benefits of SOA can outweigh the difficulties.
In this fast-paced, fast-developing technological world, the fact that SOA has stayed put, and in some cases, resurfaced, says something about the importance of taking both implementation and design into consideration. Moreover, the fact that challenges have been overcome to produce major benefits also speaks volumes. Nevertheless, such descriptions only scratch the surface of what SOA is, how it functions and the extent of the challenges involved with its use.
Interested in learning more about SOA? Check out The Open Group's SOA Source Book