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3.11 Scope of Applicability of SOA and Web Service

As indicated throughout the first three chapters of this book, Web service technology provides a uniform usage model for components/services, especially within the context of heterogeneous distributed environments. Web service technology also virtualizes resources (that is, components that are software artifacts or hardware artifacts). Both are achieved by shielding idiosyncrasies of the different environments that host those components. This shielding can occur by dynamically selecting and binding those components and by hiding the communication details to properly access those components.

Furthermore, interactions between a requester and a service might show configurable qualities of service, such as reliable message transport, transaction protection, message-level security, and so on. These qualities of services are not just ensured between two participants but between any number of participants in heterogeneous environments.

Given this focus, the question about the scope of applicability of SOA in general and Web service technology in particular is justified. As with most architectural questions, there is no crisp answer, no hard or fast rule to apply. Given this, common sense should prevail. For example:

  • SOA is not cost effective for organizations that have small application portfolios or those whose new interface requirements are not enough to benefit from SOA.

  • SOA does not benefit organizations that have relatively static application portfolios that are already fully interfaced.

  • If integration of components within heterogeneous environments or dynamically changing component configurations is at the core of the problem being addressed, consider SOA and Web service technology. SOA offers potentially significant benefits to organizations with large application portfolios that undergo frequent change (lots of mergers and acquisitions or frequent switching of service providers).

  • If reusability of a function (in the sense of making it available to all kinds of requesters) is important, providing the function as a Web service is a good approach.

  • Currently, the XML footprint and parsing cost at both ends of a message exchange does take up time and resources. If high performance is the most important criterion for primary implementation, consider the use of Web service technology with care. Use of binary XML for interchange might help this, but currently there are no agreed-upon standards for this.

  • Similarly, if the problem in hand is within a homogeneous environment, and interoperation with other external environments is not an issue, Web service technology might not have significant benefit.

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