It’s time for round 2 of our IT Solutions Made Simple series. In part 1, we discussed how Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) cuts costs and improves the efficiency of paper communication systems. This time we’ve chosen a software method that in many ways works alongside EDI to merge IT structure with a business’s needs.
Service-oriented architecture, or SOA, is one of the veteran technology solutions for businesses. Although the specific application of SOA was not fully realized until the beginning of the millennium, the concept of “loose coupling”—which SOA uses and expands upon—is a principle that arose alongside centralized computing’s “caveman days” back in the 1970’s and 80s.
However, just because SOA has been around for a while doesn’t necessarily mean business managers are familiar with its function and purpose when applied to their company.
From a technical viewpoint, SOA is not a specific technology or software, but an architectural approach based on the delivery of reusable, well-defined business services that are supported by IT components.
At its most basic level, SOA is often associated with web services, but this application only scratches the surface of what SOA is capable of.
For example, let’s say a bank wants to establish an online service that allows members to see if they pre-qualify for a loan, before having to go through the involved and time-consuming process of submitting an official application.
Using a SOA approach, the bank might customize one “service” to review a customer’s credit history, another service to log the customer’s address into the bank’s database for future communications, and still another service to estimate the interest rate for the loan amount requested.
Each of these services could be performed by different software on different computers, and operate independently, unaware that the other services even exist. While these services may be autonomous and have different “languages,” most function under the same open standards.
SOA is not dependant on any particular programming language, but instead uses this common standard to communicate with separate services. So if services are different parts of the human body, then SOA is the nerves that make internal communication possible to create a functional and efficient whole.
More broadly speaking, SOA brings about a fundamental shift in how an organization implements business solutions, and marks the beginning of the end for the outdated enterprise system which consists of large-scale, unchanging software packages that support business processes but fail to allow for individual variations.
What this all means for businesses is that through SOA companies can react more quickly to changes in technology needs and process than ever before. SOA increases the agility of a business, as well as software reusability, and allows new systems to be customized much faster and with more ease by using composite applications.
If you’re interested in learning more about SOA, talk to one of our EDI and SOA consultants to get straight answers to all of your questions.