SOA bridges the past and present and delivers a platform for the future.
While the concept of service-oriented architecture (SOA) has been the basis of enterprise development projects for years, there are new motivations driving the deployment of SOA-based solutions.
In fact, SOA approaches help organizations cope with a number of modern challenges, according to Tim Hall, vice president of product management at Oracle. “Right now, organizations are realizing the power of SOA in three primary ways,” says Hall. “The first is improved customer service while reducing costs, the second is the ability to increase revenue through new channels like mobile applications, and the third is in more-rapid response to change.”
As with many technology developments, there are several ways to define a term such as service, but according to Hall, a good way to understand the service part of service-oriented architecture is by thinking of a service as a series of concentric circles, each of which provides a different level of complexity. As you extend outward from the center, you’re essentially hiding the complexity of the circles that are further in.
“When you’re talking about services designed for on-premises versus private cloud versus public cloud, you’re actually talking about the level of service granularity that you need to expose and how much needs to be hidden,” says Hall.
From Hall’s perspective, organizations also need to understand that while it’s important to consider what services to create and how to create them, they also need to focus on how those services will be supported and managed.
San Joaquin County, California, is using SOA to create services not only to open up legacy systems but also to position itself to meet an ever-increasing set of agile requirements. Over the past six years, San Joaquin County has been using SOA to reinvent its mainframe applications as modern Web-based applications that can be developed and modified rapidly, while at the same time laying the foundation for new applications.
“Our focus is really on providing the best solutions for our customers,” says Shakir Awan, information systems manager for the San Joaquin County Information Systems Division. “Our CIO, Jerry Becker, realized the importance of rapid application development tools, service-oriented architecture, and business process management [BPM], and he created a center of excellence around Java EE, SOA, and BPM.”
San Joaquin’s customers include different state and federal agencies, and its justice systems, for example, include a great deal of information that needs to be shared with different agencies—a manageable task with a SOA infrastructure.
“With our Oracle-based SOA and BPM architectures, we can add multiple targets to a datasource and it allows us to scale our applications as needed,” says Awan. “The middleware infrastructure provides us the ability to handle high transaction volume and modify our source and target systems with minimum effort, and we scale out as needed—not only scalability in terms of transactions, but also in terms of applications. We use SOA and Oracle Fusion Middleware to provide access to our existing data from new applications.”
San Joaquin is using SOA in a series of justice systems, including systems that handle probation cases. The county’s probation case management system manages about 15,000 active probationers and links to a variety of other systems through 24 different interfaces. Information on the active probationers has to be updated on a regular basis and shared with numerous other systems, including one that manages more than 240,000 court cases.
“By using SOA interfaces and our modernized architecture, we’re saving more than US$20,000 annually on license fees compared to our old mainframe systems,” says Awan. “In addition, the development time is one-sixth of what it used to be. We can roll out a new interface in 2 to 4 weeks compared to the 20 weeks it used to take.”
Population served: 650,000
Oracle Products: Oracle Database, Oracle Business Process Management Suite, Oracle Identity Management, Oracle Application Development Framework, Oracle Real Application Clusters 11g, Oracle WebLogic Server 11g, Oracle SOA Suite 11g, Oracle Business Process Services, Oracle Business Activity Monitoring
Employees: 10,000 (Teva North America)
Revenue: US$18 billion in 2011 (Teva Pharmaceutical)
Oracle Products: Oracle Business Intelligence Enterprise Edition; Oracle E-Business Suite 11.5.10 enterprise resource planning applications, including Oracle Advanced Supply Chain Planning, Oracle Order Management, Oracle Inventory, Oracle Purchasing, Oracle Process Manufacturing, and Oracle Shipping Execution; Oracle Database; Oracle SOA Suite; Oracle Service Bus; Oracle Business Activity Monitoring; Oracle SOA Management Pack Enterprise Edition; Oracle BPEL Process Manager; Oracle JDeveloper
In addition, the county’s SOA-based infrastructure is being used to provide Web access to citizens for processing online transactions such as traffic tickets.
“With SOA, our access time has really improved,” says Awan. “It’s less than three seconds for the mobile units and police officers running applications in their cars. It also saves a lot of time and effort for our staff.”
San Joaquin is also leveraging its SOA-based infrastructure to support citizen access to county systems as it invests in private cloud infrastructure. The county is currently developing cloud components based on Oracle WebLogic Server 12c and expanding its cloud capabilities.
“We’re going to be using the same logic and experience we gain from our private cloud-based traffic ticket system to roll out other services to the public, such as access to public information, through our cloud infrastructure,” says Awan. “We’re planning to roll out Web applications for the new Oracle WebLogic–based cloud infrastructure soon. We see a lot of opportunity to use our Oracle SOA infrastructure for future cloud applications.”
San Joaquin is seeing a growing demand for using the cloud and is looking toward a corporate cloud setup using Oracle technologies to meet that need.
“We see Oracle BPM as the foundation for the information sharing within our organizations as well as for services we provide through the cloud,” says Awan. “Oracle BPM is going to play a major role in the workflow of the data that we receive and send via the cloud. We’re definitely looking at it as a key player in our infrastructure.”
For San Joaquin, the move to SOA wasn’t just about leveraging past investments. It was also about positioning itself for the future.
“Our use of SOA and BPM has allowed us to strategically align our information systems with the needs of our users,” says Awan. “SOA and BPM tools from Oracle have been critical to our success. I would recommend that any IT shop looking for agility to meet changing customer needs should consider a SOA- and BPM-oriented infrastructure.”
Teva Pharmaceuticals in North Wales, Pennsylvania, is another organization that’s using SOA not only to tie together a wide range of existing systems but also as a foundation for the future. And this foundation supports an innovative application that promises to provide significant competitive advantage.
Teva produces both branded and generic drugs, with manufacturing facilities across the globe and more than 40,000 employees worldwide. It has more than 100 pharmaceutical lines, from women’s health to multiple sclerosis. Teva uses Oracle enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications as its main system of record, but many other systems, such as Teva’s warehouse management system and its financial systems, integrate with the Oracle ERP solution.
Teva previously used point-to-point integration among all these systems, but in 2008 the company started looking for a more future-oriented option. After evaluating SOA solutions from both IBM and Oracle, Teva chose Oracle and Oracle Fusion Middleware. “We evaluated the solutions and found that Oracle was a better fit for us,” says Jagadish Shivaramaiah, manager, applications development, at Teva Pharmaceuticals.
With Oracle Fusion Middleware, Teva implemented a new SOA-based middleware infrastructure that tied together everything from its warehouse management systems to its ERP system to its tax system and homegrown applications. “For us, service-oriented technology was the way to go because we could standardize the data interaction across all these systems without making any changes to them,” says Shivaramaiah.
“Today, more than 90 percent of our point-to-point integrations are standardized on SOA,” says Shivaramaiah. “We use SOA for building services and Oracle Service Bus for orchestrating them.” Shivaramaiah expects that any new systems Teva deploys will also be SOA-enabled.
In addition to reduced costs and faster development, Shivaramaiah notes other benefits, such as corporate data that is now easily available across all the company’s different systems. “Now, business users don’t have to go into different systems to look at data,” says Shivaramaiah. “We created integrated dashboards with Oracle Fusion Middleware so that our users can look at a single dashboard to read data that’s physically spread across different systems. It’s available in real time and helps them make business decisions a lot more quickly than they’ve been able to in the past.”
From a performance standpoint, Teva’s SOA solution has been a winner. “We’ve had huge performance improvements on some of the point-to-point integrations,” says Shivaramaiah. “Now that we have Oracle SOA Suite, we’ve been able to expose some services to our partner systems as well, so that we have purchase requisitions coming directly in, for example. The business analysts and business users really appreciate the kind of performance improvement that we’ve brought about by using Oracle SOA solutions.”
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Designing such a system isn’t easy. In Teva’s case, in order to create serialized products, the company had to be able to tie together a wide range of heterogeneous systems, create a solution that could work even with evolving requirements, scale to a global level, and work with key trading partners and their infrastructures.
Implementing traceable products required Teva to integrate and exchange information across a wide set of its internal systems, from a packaging system that actually applies the bar code; to the warehouse management system that receives, stores, and ships products; to a traceability server that captures and manages events related to each serial number.
Teva used Oracle SOA Suite to integrate all these systems and more across a wide variety of platforms and database systems. The company chose a SOA approach for the e-Pedigree solution because it wanted a standards-based approach that would be highly reusable, as well as agile.
“Applications that are built on an open, standards-based, service-oriented architecture allow us the flexibility and agility that is needed for a long-term successful initiative,” says Shivaramaiah.
Whether your business technology services are in a public cloud, a private cloud, or a traditional data center, a solid SOA foundation delivers the best service integration and performance—and the best return on your technology investments.
According to Oracle’s Hall, organizations need to understand that SOA shouldn’t be about a single project. Instead, adopting SOA is a journey that results in robust architecture spanning multiple projects and technology waves. Companies who made the early investment in SOA are now able to more rapidly integrate software as a service with their on-premises systems, offer new APIs to support mobile application development, and fill in gaps when business processes span applications.
“A lot of organizations start with Oracle SOA Suite to establish their SOA infrastructure,” says Hall. “From there, they add on Oracle Business Process Management Suite to extend the capabilities with human workflow and more. It fits very nicely and works as a stepping-stone investment that really pays off.”
David A. Kelly (davidakelly.com) is a business, technology, and travel writer who lives in West Newton, Massachusetts.