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3.4 Goals and Benefits of Service-Oriented Computing

A set of strategic goals and benefits (Figure 3.26) collectively represents the target state we look to achieve when we consistently apply service-orientation to the design of software programs. It is highly beneficial to understand the significance of these goals and benefits because they provide us with constant, overarching context and justification for maintaining our commitment to carrying out service-orientation over the long term.

Figure 3.26

Figure 3.26 The seven identified goals are interrelated and can be further categorized into two groups: strategic goals and resulting benefits. Increased organization agility, increased ROI, and reduced IT burden are concrete benefits resulting from the attainment of the remaining four goals.

The upcoming sections describe each of these strategic goals and benefits.

Increased Intrinsic Interoperability

Interoperability refers to the sharing of data. The more interoperable software programs are, the easier it is for them to exchange information. Software programs that are not interoperable need to be integrated. Therefore, integration can be seen as a process that enables interoperability. A goal of service-orientation is to establish native interoperability within services to reduce the need for integration (Figure 3.27). As previously explained in the Effects of Service-Orientation on the Enterprise section, integration as a concept begins to fade within service-oriented environments.

Figure 3.27

Figure 3.27 Services are designed to be intrinsically interoperable regardless of when and for which purpose they are delivered. In this example, the intrinsic interoperability of the Invoice and Timesheet services delivered by Project Teams A and B allow them to be combined into a new service composition by Project Team C.

Interoperability is specifically fostered through the consistent application of design principles and design standards. This establishes an environment wherein services produced by different projects at different times can be repeatedly assembled together into a variety of composition configurations to help automate a range of business tasks.

Intrinsic interoperability represents a fundamental goal of service-orientation that establishes a foundation for the realization of other strategic goals and benefits. Contract standardization, scalability, behavioral predictability, and reliability are just some of the design characteristics required to facilitate interoperability, all of which are addressed by the service-orientation principles documented in this book.

Each of the eight service-orientation principles supports or contributes to interoperability in some manner. The following are just a few examples:

  • Standardized Service Contract (291) – Service contracts are standardized to guarantee a baseline measure of interoperability associated with the harmonization of data models.

  • Service Loose Coupling (293) – Reducing the degree of service coupling fosters interoperability by making individual services less dependent on others and therefore more open for invocation by different service consumers.

  • Service Abstraction (294) – Abstracting details about the service limits all interoperation to the service contract, increasing the long-term consistency of interoperability by allowing underlying service logic to evolve more independently.

  • Service Reusability (295) – Designing services for reuse implies a high-level of required interoperability between the service and numerous potential service consumers.

  • Service Autonomy (297) – By raising a service’s individual autonomy its behavior becomes more consistently predictable, increasing its reuse potential and thereby its attainable level of interoperability.

  • Service Statelessness (298) – Through an emphasis on stateless design, the availability and scalability of services increase, allowing them to interoperate more frequently and reliably.

  • Service Discoverability (300) – Being discoverable simply allows services to be more easily located by those who want to potentially interoperate with them.

  • Service Composability (302) – Finally, for services to be effectively composable they must be interoperable. The success of fulfilling composability requirements is often tied directly to the extent to which services are standardized and cross-service data exchange is optimized.

  • A fundamental goal of applying service-orientation is for interoperability to become a natural by-product, ideally to the extent that a level of intrinsic interoperability is established as a common and expected service design characteristic.

Increased Federation

A federated IT environment is one where resources and applications are united while maintaining their individual autonomy and self-governance. Service-orientation aims to increase a federated perspective of an enterprise to whatever extent it is applied. It accomplishes this through the widespread deployment of standardized and composable services, each of which encapsulates a segment of the enterprise and expresses it in a consistent manner.

In support of increasing federation, standardization becomes part of the extra up-front attention each service receives at design time. Ultimately this leads to an environment where enterprise-wide solution logic becomes naturally harmonized, regardless of the nature of its underlying implementation (Figure 3.28).

Figure 3.28

Figure 3.28 Three service contracts establishing a federated set of endpoints, each of which encapsulates a different implementation.

Increased Vendor Diversification Options

Vendor diversification refers to the ability an organization has to pick and choose “best-of-breed” vendor products and technology innovations and use them together within one enterprise. Having a vendor-diverse environment is not necessarily beneficial for an organization; however, having the option to diversify when required is beneficial. To have and retain this option requires that its technology architecture not be tied or locked into any one specific vendor platform.

This represents an important state for an enterprise in that it provides the constant freedom for an organization to change, extend, and even replace solution implementations and technology resources without disrupting the overall, federated service architecture. This measure of governance autonomy is attractive because it prolongs the lifespan and increases the financial return of automation solutions.

By designing a service-oriented solution in alignment with but neutral to major vendor SOA platforms and by positioning service contracts as standardized endpoints throughout a federated enterprise, proprietary service implementation details can be abstracted to establish a consistent interservice communications framework. This provides organizations with constant options by allowing them to diversify their enterprise as needed (Figure 3.29).

Figure 3.29

Figure 3.29 A service composition consisting of three services, each of which encapsulates a different vendor automation environment. If service-orientation is adequately applied to the services, underlying disparity will not inhibit their ability to be combined into effective compositions.

Vendor diversification is further supported by taking advantage of the standards-based, vendor-neutral Web services framework. Because they impose no proprietary communication requirements, services further decrease dependency on vendor platforms. As with any other implementation medium, though, services need to be shaped and standardized through service-orientation to become a federated part of a greater service inventory.

Increased Business and Technology Domain Alignment

The extent to which IT business requirements are fulfilled is often associated with the accuracy with which business logic is expressed and automated by solution logic. Although initial application implementations have traditionally been designed to meet initial requirements, there has historically been a challenge in keeping applications in alignment with business needs as the nature and direction of the business changes.

Service-orientation promotes abstraction on many levels. One of the most effective means by which functional abstraction is applied is the establishment of service layers that accurately encapsulate and represent business models. By doing so, common, pre-existing representations of business logic (business entities, business processes) can exist in implemented form as physical services.

This is accomplished by incorporating a structured analysis and modeling process that requires the hands-on involvement of business subject matter experts in the actual definition of the services (as explained in the Service-Oriented Analysis (Service Modeling) section in Chapter 4). The resulting service designs are capable of aligning automation technology with business intelligence on an unprecedented level (Figure 3.30).

Figure 3.30

Figure 3.30 Services with business-centric functional contexts are carefully modeled to express and encapsulate corresponding business models and logic.

Furthermore, the fact that services are designed to be intrinsically interoperable directly facilitates business change. As business processes are augmented in response to various factors (business climates, new policies, new priorities, etc.) services can be reconfigured into new compositions that reflect the changed business logic. This allows a service-oriented technology architecture to evolve in tandem with the business itself.

Increased ROI

Measuring the return on investment (ROI) of automated solutions is a critical factor in determining just how cost effective a given application or system actually is. The greater the return, the more an organization benefits from the solution. However, the lower the return, the more the cost of automated solutions eats away at an organization’s budgets and profits.

Because the nature of required application logic has increased in complexity and due to ever-growing, non-federated integration architectures that are difficult to maintain and evolve, the average IT department represents a significant amount of an organization’s operational budget. For many organizations, the financial overhead required by IT is a primary concern because it often continues to rise without demonstrating any corresponding increase in business value.

Service-orientation advocates the creation of agnostic solution logic—logic that is agnostic to any one purpose and therefore useful for multiple purposes. This multipurpose or reusable logic fully leverages the intrinsically interoperable nature of services. Agnostic services have increased reuse potential that can be realized by allowing them to be repeatedly assembled into different compositions. Any one agnostic service can therefore find itself being repurposed numerous times to automate different business processes as part of different service-oriented solutions.

With this benefit in mind, additional up-front expense and effort is invested into every piece of solution logic to position it as an IT asset for the purpose of repeatable, long-term financial returns. As shown in Figure 3.31, the emphasis on increasing ROI typically goes beyond the returns traditionally sought as part of past reuse initiatives. This has much to do with the fact that service-orientation aims to establish reuse as a common, secondary characteristic within most services.

Figure 3.31

Figure 3.31 An example of the types of formulas being used to calculate ROI for SOA projects. More is invested in the initial delivery with the goal of benefiting from increased subsequent reuse.

It is important to acknowledge that this goal is not simply tied to the benefits traditionally associated with software reuse. Proven commercial product design techniques are incorporated and blended with existing enterprise application delivery approaches to form the basis of a distinct set of service-oriented analysis and design processes (as covered in the chapters in Part II, Service-Oriented Analysis and Design).

Increased Organizational Agility

Agility, on an organizational level, refers to efficiency with which an organization can respond to change. Increasing organizational agility is very attractive to corporations, especially those in the private sector. Being able to more quickly adapt to industry changes and outmaneuver competitors has tremendous strategic significance.

An IT department can sometimes be perceived as a bottleneck, hampering desired responsiveness by requiring too much time or resources to fulfill new or changing business requirements. This is one of the reasons agile development methods have gained popularity, as they provide a means of addressing immediate, tactical concerns more rapidly.

Service-orientation is very much geared toward establishing widespread organizational agility. When service-orientation is applied throughout an enterprise, it results in the creation of services that are highly standardized and reusable and therefore agnostic to parent business processes and specific application environments.

As a service inventory is comprised of more and more agnostic services, an increasing percentage of its overall solution logic belongs to no one application environment. Instead, because these services have been positioned as reusable IT assets, they can be repeatedly composed into different configurations. As a result, the time and effort required to automate new or changed business processes is correspondingly reduced because development projects can now be completed with significantly less custom development effort (Figure 3.32).

Figure 3.32

Figure 3.32 The delivery timeline is projected based on the percentage of “net new” solution logic that needs to be built. Though in this example only 35% of new logic is required, the timeline is reduced by around 50% because significant effort is still required to incorporate existing, reusable services from the inventory.

The net result of this fundamental shift in project delivery is heightened responsiveness and reduced time to market potential, all of which translates into increased organizational agility.

Reduced IT Burden

Consistently applying service-orientation results in an IT enterprise with reduced waste and redundancy, reduced size and operational cost (Figure 3.33), and reduced overhead associated with its governance and evolution. Such an enterprise can benefit an organization through dramatic increases in efficiency and cost-effectiveness.

Figure 3.33

Figure 3.33 If you were to take a typical automated enterprise and redevelop it entirely with custom, normalized services, its overall size would shrink considerably, resulting in a reduced operational scope.

In essence, the attainment of the previously described goals can create a leaner, more agile IT department, one that is less of a burden on the organization and more of an enabling contributor to its strategic goals.

In summary, the consistent application of service-orientation design principles to individual services that eventually comprise a greater service inventory is the core requirement to achieving the goals and benefits of service-oriented computing (Figure 3.34).

Figure 3.34

Figure 3.34 The repeated application of service-orientation principles to services that are delivered as part of a collection leads to a target state based on the manifestation of the strategic goals associated with service-oriented computing.

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