SOA for Business Intelligence Isn’t Well Understood

Ventana Research explains how building a service-oriented architecture for business intelligence depends on understanding what a complete infrastructure for SOA is, and how to properly evaluate technical solutions for BI services.



In the first-ever research on service-oriented architecture for business intelligence, only one-third of respondents reported they believe their internal IT personnel have the knowledge and skills to implement BI services. The research revealed that companies are concerned about visibility and management of services, security, meeting service level agreements and reuse of services. The actions IT organizations believe they need to take to adopt BI services are to acquire general knowledge about SOA, determine the SOA capabilities of BI vendors’ products and identify IT resources required to migrate to and support an SOA environment. Ventana Research believes that understanding what a complete infrastructure for SOA is and how to properly evaluate technical solutions for BI services is vital if projects are to succeed.


Ventana Research recently completed a primary research study of SOA for BI, sponsored by Cognos and Composite Software and media sponsors BI Review,, DM Review, Intelligent Enterprise, and Technology Evaluation Centers. Asked what actions their companies will need to take to adopt SOA for BI, respondents cited acquiring general knowledge about SOA (53 percent) as the action they most needed to take; this option ranked first even among organizations that plan to implement an SOA infrastructure within the next 12 months. Following close behind were two related issues, determining BI vendors’ SOA capabilities (49 percent) and identifying IT resources required to migrate to and support an SOA environment (48 percent). Ventana Research recommends IT organizations educate themselves about basic concepts of SOA such as a service model, contract and registry, as well as the larger architectural issues of how to create, compose, control and consume BI services on .Net, J2EE and Web services technologies.

Ventana Research also recommends building greater understanding of how technical capabilities address adoption concerns. A scant 27 percent of respondents reported they think that dynamically provisioning idle resources to optimize response times under variable or heavy workloads is an essential capability of SOA for BI, even though it can help address meeting service level agreements for response times, which was the third-most often cited concern about adopting BI services. And only 26 percent said running in peer-to-peer fashion in distributed processing environments, which can help provide high availability, is an essential BI services capability.

We asked how valuable standards are for the implementation SOA for BI. Surprisingly among organizations that plan on integrating BI services with a corporate portal within 12 months, half don’t know what value is provided by Java Specification Request 168, which defines a standard set of application programming interfaces addressing integration of applications with portals. Similarly, the top concern about deploying BI services was visibility and operational management of broadly deployed services; yet when asked about the Universal Description, Discovery and Integration protocol and the Business Process Execution Language -- both of which can address this concern -- 46 percent of respondents didn’t know what value the standards provide. Ventana Research recommends IT organizations educate themselves about the role industry standards play in developing, integrating, orchestrating, securing, managing, accessing and analyzing BI services.

We also recommend developing a strategy for SOA that includes a reference model specifying how services should be accessed and interact with each other, and a governance process to ensure that services conform to the reference model. Without a defined strategy, companies will have difficulty establishing reuse of services once published, which was a concern reported by 38 percent of respondents. And without reuse of services, IT organizations will not be able to realize the No. 1 expected IT benefit -- increased responsiveness to business needs -- or the No. 2 expected business benefit -- responding faster to changing business conditions. Ventana Research believes the 74 percent of companies that said they do not have both reference model and a governance process are at risk of creating a new layer of SOA components in their IT environments that do not interoperate with each other.


The results of the survey show that more market education about SOA for BI is necessary. Ventana Research believes that most companies need to develop knowledge and skills on multiple levels. We recommend IT architecture groups develop a corporate SOA strategy and help drive a common level of understanding among IT groups that SOA can do more than just wrap Web services around legacy interfaces to facilitate point-to point-integration of IT systems. We recommend data warehousing groups educate themselves about SOA capabilities in BI products and evaluate how well different vendors address their corporate strategy and adoption concerns. Similarly we recommend application development groups educate themselves on which industry standards are part of the corporate strategy and how they can increase productivity.

Like any other cross-discipline technology initiative, SOA projects implemented in an ad-hoc manner are much more likely to fail than those that are controlled and coordinated. Ventana Research recommends that companies tie together efforts in each discipline to reap the full value of SOA. We expect most companies to derive value progressively from lower integration costs, faster application development, broader performance visibility and control, and finally greater business agility as they develop SOA knowledge and skills.

About Ventana Research
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