Flextronics' SOA environment is a blend of SOAP and Representational State Transfer, or REST, Web services, which are lighter-weight and require lower overhead. "We evaluated REST but went with SOAP since one of the systems being integrated supported SOAP out of the box," Rao says. "We have a lot of smaller projects where REST is more appropriate, so it's not one or the other." Business requirements drive the choice of whether to use SOAP or REST, Rao says, "depending on whether the project requires agility or standardization."
To get initial buy-in from upper management for the SOA project, Rao's team first identified a process that was broken. The Global Procurement Organization, the Flextronics department that negotiates prices with suppliers, needed a single, reliable source of real-time item-pricing data, Rao says. It had been using a centralized decision-support system to store global price data. For this system to be effective, item prices had to be synchronized between the company's Baan ERP system and the DSS database. But "sometimes, the synchronization process would fail and buyers would be dealing with old price data," Rao says.
The SOA team solved the problem by mapping the business processes that involved price synchronization between ERP and DSS into the WebMethods ESB environment, which enabled the two systems to talk to each other.
"That got the attention of the business guys," Rao says. "That's when they said, 'This really works!'"
The price-synchronization project was implemented as a simple SOA process with some limited security and validation. It had the advantage of being a small, visible project that gave the SOA team the confidence to take on more complicated processes that involved more extensive SOA governance.
STANDARDIZED AND SUPPORTABLE
Besides starting with smaller projects, Rao recommends standardizing where possible, since it's much easier to support a standardized environment in the long run. "One of our biggest themes is supportability," he says. "Even if a technology looks good, if it can't be supported, we won't implement it."
All this has gone into assuring a successful SOA effort that has helped Flextronics with its Solectron acquisition and continues to let it deliver a high level of service to its customers across all channels, product lines, and geographies.
Illustration by Brian Stauffer
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