Leverage existing information assets with an SOA strategy to achieve benefits rapidly and safely.
Editor's Note: This article introduces "Keeping Your System i Applications Relevant in a Service-Oriented World," a free white paper that you can download from the MC White Paper Center.
Service-oriented architecture (SOA) encompasses design principles like modularization, encapsulation, standards, reusability, and distributed computing. At every step in the history of software, we've been moving steadily forward to achieve these ideals.
As applications and technology have become more sophisticated, the focus on integration and modularization has taken center stage. Component reuse and interoperability requirements have driven this move toward SOA, where self-contained business logic can be exposed and shared efficiently across applications and platforms.
At the heart of many SOA solutions are Web services, a technology that enables disjointed applications to communicate with each other in a platform- and language-independent manner. With SOA and Web services, the dream of distributed applications and services can become a reality.
A key goal of the white paper is to coach IT management on how to take advantage of these architectural ideals without overthrowing the rich legacy systems that may have evolved with the business over many years.
The following provides a summary of the sections in the white paper.
What Is SOA?
Service-oriented architecture is defined and explained at a high level, including a summary of some of the standards associated with it.
What Is a Service?
When referencing a "service" in the context of SOA, it is typically a procedure or method that performs a specific function for use by other modules or systems. Examples of generic and specific services and other key SOA concepts are also described in this section.
SOA Begins with Web Services
A Web service is a self-contained piece of software available via standard network protocols—such as HTTP(s), AS2, FTP—that is exposed by a standardized interface, the Web Services Description Language (WSDL). The WSDL is a schema-defined XML document that includes all of the information an application requires to call or consume the Web service. Data is exchanged between the application and the Web service, using a standard XML messaging format called Simple Object Access Protocol (SOAP).
Why Is SOA Important?
Two key drivers behind SOA are the need to integrate applications and platforms internally and the need to automate transaction processing with external entities. SOA aims to capture the best characteristics of previous architectures. Central aims are technology neutrality and standardization and consumability based on interoperable, loosely coupled, machine-to-machine components interacting over a network. At its heart is the promise of true distributed computing.
In order to illustrate the benefits that can be realized by striving for SOA with your existing IT infrastructure, a fictional wholesale distribution company—J. Bond—is illustrated.
Although some organizations may never move forward with SOA while others may invest heavily in a full-scale replacement of core systems to achieve SOA, the vast majority of System i shops should, and can, move forward in a more practical manner to take advantage of SOA, Web services, and gradual component-based development.
For organizations interested in a gradual, pragmatic approach, five practical steps are outlined.
Establish Best Practices
Several recommended best practices are provided to manage your enterprise business applications and move forward with SOA.
Modernization in Action: Brewers Distributor Ltd. Case Study
Brewers Distributor Ltd. (BDL) is Western Canada's leading distribution and container return service for the brewing industry, moving nearly a billion dollars worth of beer per year. After using LANSA Commerce Edition and LANSA Integrator to successfully extend its JD Edwards system with Web self-service and automated transaction processing with its wholesale customers, BDL implemented Visual LANSA and LANSA Integrator for Web services as part of a dispatch and warehouse automation system that is saving BDL nearly $500,000 per year. BDL's modernization and SOA strategy continues to be implemented on an as-needed basis to accomplish mission-critical projects. Key components of the BDL solution are illustrated.
The Benefits of a Pragmatic Approach to SOA
While SOA may be viewed as the latest evolution in enterprise architecture, its ultimate payback can be demonstrated by the classic business drivers of the IRACIS model, developed by Gane and Sarson in 1976, which outlines three classes of benefits.
The Road to SOA
Transforming toward service-oriented architecture can involve restructuring an organization's people, business processes, and IT technologies to deliver better service to customers and partners. However, embarking on a large business transformation initiative to bring about a paradigm change within a business organization's structure and culture may not be the best approach for all organizations. By leveraging existing information assets with an SOA strategy, benefits will be achieved much more rapidly —and safely—than with large-scale replacement.
Find out more about SOA in "Keeping Your System i Applications Relevant in a Service-Oriented World," a free white paper that you can download from the MC White Paper Center.