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Does enterprise 2.0 Pave the Way for Rebirth of SOA?

Author: Mukund Balasubrahmanian
CTO, Photon Infotech
Does enterprise 2.0 Pave the Way for Rebirth of SOA? -By-Mukund Balasubrahmanian
Enterprise 2.0 (E 2.0), as it stands today, is the most sought after buzzword. Experts have begun evangelizing it as the rebirth of Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). To a certain degree the concept can be attributed to the fact that SOA has not reached holistic levels yet, and there might be a possible justification for E 2.0 as a new paradigm, which utilizes SOA to get a lot of things done. We must see whether E 2.0 and its new found bonding with SOA will live up to the extent of fulfilling the expectations.

What is E 2.0?
E 2.0 can be termed as the ?Facebook of the enterprise?. Enterprises have realized the need for building a collaborative platform for their employees to drive contributive growth and boost productivity. This is done by bringing the power of Web 2.0 into the corporate firewall. This idea as a whole is often dubbed E 2.0. E 2.0 would include information sharing spaces, self-service portals, collaboration driven intranets, digital dashboards, and consolidated workspace. So the new trend in it is to build Facebook-like applications within the firewall that are trendy, visually appealing, and collaborative, thereby fostering employee usage and productivity.

The lateral path E 2.0 takes is with respect to introducing user level hierarchies and mandating the usage level. Data security and confidentiality play a key role in the success of E 2.0.

Why SOA Never Reached Fruition?

SOA is a principle of governing software modules and providing interoperable services. Simply put, it can be restated as alignment of business and IT through ?services?. SOA underpins and enables initiatives aimed at cost reduction, such as SaaS or BPM.

While SOA has been around for more than a decade, it has not been able to evolve into a single key enabler for enterprise solutions. IT pros have expressed skepticism about SOA's promised return on investment (ROI). A 2007 InformationWeek Web survey of 278 IT pros found that 32 percent of those using SOA said that the projects fell short of expectations. Of them, 58 percent said their SOA projects introduced more complexity into their IT environments and 30 percent said that they cost more than expected.

The reason why SOA did struggle on the hype cycle is because it did not have a visually appealing user interface like Facebook or rich content like YouTube. On the contrary, E 2.0 with its new age Rich Internet Applications (RIA) is proving to be a killer solution for enterprise collaboration. Industry experts feel that tooling of SOA is complex and building frameworks and tools is still in the nascent stage.

One of the key observations in the SOA space is that it was predominantly driven by biggies like IBM and TIBCO. Experts also believe that SOA was mostly vendor driven rather than by definite and real problem solving, except for integration.

How are People Leveraging SOA?

The implementation of SOA has been dominant in the integration space. It?s an enabler of enterprise application integration, partner integration, data integration, and business process management. Enterprises use SOA to improve the flexibility and extensibility of their packaged software applications and save money by eliminating duplicated functionality.

Not Generating Enough Moolah
One of the back-breakers is that most vendors have not been able to generate enough value out of multi-million dollar SOA implementations. One of the reasons for decrease in adoption of SOA was that enterprises were not realizing enough ROI from its implementation. Excerpts from Gartner?s 2008 SOA adoption survey shows that the proportion of organizations planning to adopt SOA in the next twelve months had fallen from 54 percent in 2007 to 24 percent in 2008, making it a downward curve for SOA vendor firms.

De-facto Way of Doing Integration

SOA is more like EAI than a lot of software vendors would have you believe. In fact, in many vendors' offerings, especially the ones labeled Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) have changed very little from their EAI roots. Many of the best practices of EAI apply directly to SOA. Companies that were doing a good job with EAI will have an easier time with SOA. There are also principles, standards, and models defined to implement and manage the execution of SOA transformation and or enterprise application integration (EAI) for an organization.


SOA vs. Web Services

Generally, SOA is not described without mentioning Web services, and vice versa. This is because they are orthogonal: service-orientation is an architectural style, while Web services are an implementation technology. The two can be used together, and they frequently are, although they are not mutually dependent. While Web services are well suited as the basis for a service-oriented environment, there is nothing in their definition that requires them to embody the SOA principles.

How are People Leveraging E 2.0?
E 2.0 is used to leverage the Web 2.0 primitives available over the Internet and make them available within the enterprise. There are cases of enterprises integrating their file management, content management, and legacy systems and making them available within the enterprise in a single platform.

The two aspects of this are to make it more fun and informative for the users and also to drive information exchange and contribution features. For example, users are allowed to create personal profiles, blogs, and chat features, incorporating document sharing, reporting, meeting management, and alerts as well.

One key factor is to realize the difference between Web 2.0 and E 2.0 and incorporate extended features into E 2.0 to make it enterprise ready, secure, and capable of driving business growth.

Though E 2.0 is steadily climbing the hype cycle, the adoption models are not clearly defined as yet. Enterprises are still looking for best practices for their internal collaboration needs and the reason for this being availability of a plethora of technology platforms for distributed needs.

How Do They Fit in?

All of these become obvious when enterprises look at E 2.0 as not just a form of information dissemination platform but rather a loosely coupled integrated medium allowing users collaborate better with their coworkers.

* With first generation portals dying out and motifs that were created in the ?90s losing their sheen, CIOs are looking at creating flashy and fun filled applications that would drive user contribution and collaboration among employees.

* SOA can be used to combine data from existing content and source data from enterprises to make it more visually appealing.

* New APIs, such as internal versions of Facebook or OpenSocial APIs, will foster more adoption ? and this would be an age of portlets.

* Mashups will continue to demonstrate the supreme capability to aggregate information from simple, composable services and render them on multiple platforms.

* The long tail of reports and business intelligence will be a huge kicker for SOAs inside the enterprises.

* Collaborative intelligence within the enterprise will act as the Holy Grail for E 2.0 adoption. The key driver would be to set up drivers for content accumulation and reporting to drive intelligence.


The challenges faced in enterprise collaboration platform implementation are related to technical platforms and integration. Though there are off-the-shelf products available for enterprise collaboration, their integration with distributed systems and content is a key challenge.

Conclusion

The hype that SOA will provide complete enterprise collaboration needs did not survive; it is but an enabling technology and is still used as an integration platform. E 2.0 might make it to the hype curve and would mature into a well-adopted collaboration platform. Mashups and new portals will still drive aggregation and business intelligence and will make this a positive spiral.
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