IBM: SOA still misunderstood

The biggest mistake companies make with Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) is thinking of it as an end in itself and not as a means to an end, according to one IBM executive.

"We continue to make that mistake with SOA," CTO with IBM's SOA Center for Excellence, Business Consulting Services, Kerri Holley, said.

"You should never think about SOA as a product with an ROI that can be measured, but as a process you apply to a particular business problem you are trying to solve, a [specific] pain-point. That is the ROI you have to think about."

One such pain-point, he said, was getting more value out of existing applications and solutions.

According to Holley, 70 per cent of IT spending today is on mainĀ­taining existing applications in businesses.

Companies want to reduce that amount to around half of the total IT budget so the remainder can be devoted to getting more out of those applications and services.

SOA could help companies do this by transforming applications into deliverable Web-based services, he said.

The challenge, Holley said, was identifying which applications can be transformed into Web-based services.

Companies, he said, had little knowledge about how applications work, but they know specific kinds of applications are needed for the business to operate.

"This might be a customer account application, a claims application or a transaction application," he said.

"Businesses have to start thinking of those as Web services that follow the same business rules and processes standalone or proprietary applications do right now."

Holley said SOA helped turn those standalone and proprietary applications into Web services that responded to specific business issues and that were easier for businesses to understand than the architecture of SOA.