As Published In
Oracle Magazine
November/December 2009

COMMENT: Analyst’s Corner

Add Flexibility with SOA

By David Baum

Standard, hot-pluggable connections streamline software development processes.

Oracle Magazine spoke with Ian Finley, vice president of research at AMR Research, about the evolution and growth of SOA and its applicability to modern information systems.

Oracle Magazine: How do SOA toolset vendors help companies with their SOA development projects?

Finley: Companies like Oracle help not only by providing SOA development tools but also by devising frameworks such as Oracle Application Integration Architecture. These companies thought long and hard about how to take SOA technology and create standard services, such as ordering products and creating purchase orders. These frameworks help you figure out how to model these business functions and express them in their toolsets. Developers can leverage these best practices to move forward.

Oracle Magazine: Does using a vendor’s toolsets restrict you to that vendor’s applications?

Finley: SOA is all about interoperability, and middleware-platform vendors such as Oracle have worked hard to make their tools interoperable—or “hot-pluggable,” as Oracle puts it. But remember, standards are not a guarantee of interoperability. Interoperability also requires a commitment from the vendor to test and support their products in many environments and business scenarios. If you use Oracle applications, they’re already preintegrated to work together.

It’s also relatively simple to include applications—business process management tools, for instance—from other vendors. It just takes a bit more work to ensure that those components work together and continue working together. If you can, going with a single vendor is always advantageous, since a single vendor has also created SOA management tools and monitoring tools that work with their software.

Oracle Magazine: In addition to supporting interoperability, does SOA enable new types of capabilities?

Finley: SOA is better plumbing. It makes it easier to build and connect components. But it doesn’t fundamentally change the kinds of things that you can build or connect. Ultimately SOA makes it cheaper and faster to do things, such as wire Google Maps into an application so users have a map when they reach a certain part of a business process.

Oracle Magazine: What is SOA governance?

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Finley: SOA governance is a general process of defining how to build a service-oriented architecture, use that architecture, and enhance that architecture one project at a time. There is a common misconception that simply using standards-based tools will solve interoperability problems or workflow problems. SOA governance tools help you set up workflows so that people will do the right things, but SOA governance is not just a technical problem. It’s also a political and managerial problem.

Oracle Magazine: Is SOA an outdated idea?

Finley: If you’re asking me, “Is SOA dead?” then the answer is unequivocally no. To some degree, SOA was oversold as a panacea. And to that degree, it is dead. But SOA is still being built in to most of our software products, including our operating systems. Every major application vendor is rearchitecting its products around SOA. Web services and many cloud-type services are all architected around SOA. Service-oriented architecture is our best practice for developing software today. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I only see it growing in importance as companies upgrade their information systems to take advantage of all the new services in enterprise applications.

Oracle Magazine: How is SOA fundamentally different from other solutions to interapplication communication and distributed computing?

Finley: SOA is the culmination of what started off as good subroutine writing and went through object orientation, all the way up to where we are today. As computers get more powerful and disk space gets cheaper and networks get faster, we’re turning the dial toward flexibility and agility. Performance is cheap, so we’re focused on making it easier to build and maintain software functionality. To do that, we’ve taken everything we’ve learned in the past about developing software, and we’ve added new layers on top of it to make it more flexible.


David Baum ( is a freelance business writer based in Santa Barbara, California.

AMR Research provides subscription advisory services and peer networking opportunities to operations and IT executives in the consumer products, life sciences, manufacturing, and retail sectors.

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