In Focus: The Top-Five Myths About SOA

Five experienced executives weight in on the top myths surrounding service-oriented architecture.

Service-oriented architecture is fast becoming the way for companies to knit together applications and processes in a flexible, reusable and cost-effective way. Perhaps as a result, SOA is also fast becoming one of the most over-hyped areas in IT.

Earlier this month, I interviewed five distinguished IT executives in preparation for a panel discussion at TIBCO's Tucon user group meeting in Orlando, Fla. Here's what these five experienced executives named as the top myths surrounding SOA:

Myth #5 - If you're using Web services (such as SOAP over HTTP), you've achieved SOA. Not so, says Martin Moseley, chief architect at Intuit, maker of Quicken and Turbo Tax software. "Even if you use Web services and apply object-oriented approaches, you may not achieve the kind of loosely coupled, autonomous and reusable components that are essential to true SOA," Moseley says.

Myth #4 - You can buy SOA out of the box. Not quite, says Manuel Ferreira, IT director at Galp, the largest oil and gas supplier in Portugal. "SOA is something you build for each enterprise, carefully studying each application and planning services that can be reused across that enterprise," Ferreira says. "If it's out of the box, it's probably not reusable."

Myth #3 - You can simply wrap legacy systems with services. "We often see significant benefits for the overall SOA project if you closely examine the current business needs and then modernize your applications," says Mark Davis, manager, worldwide enterprise integration services at HP, a TIBCO integration partner. Application modernization may mean reengineering existing applications, rehosting them on a more reliable, manageable or standards-based platform, replacing custom code with a packaged application or retiring apps if you find they no longer support the business.

Myth #2 - Once the top executives are sold on SOA, your troubles are over. SOA demands commitment and tenacity, says Susan Martin, CIO at agricultural giant Bunge Global Markets. "There's a constant pull to meet new IT and business needs using the quick-and-dirty approaches of the past," she says. Sticking to SOA approaches and standards requires ongoing discipline, strong governance and support from rank-and-file IT and business managers as well as top executives.

Myth #1 - SOA is easy. "SOA is not a silver bullet, and it won't magically appear if you say it 10 times," says Terrezzia Martin, CIO at the Department of Homeland Security. "You have to make sense of the business rules and the data standards, and you have to start with a solid data model."

In short, SOA is not a quick win, but all five of these executives are believers, and they say the payoff in SOA is well worth the effort required.