SOA/Web Services

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January 11, 2007

Exploring the Impact Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) Will Have During 2007

By Mae Kowalke, TMCnet Associate Editor


Many enterprises today are choosing to use service oriented architectures (SOAs) as a structure for building their communications system. There are many advantages of doing so, including reduced costs and increased efficiency. But just what is an SOA?
 
“An SOA is essentially a distributed applications framework,” BlueNote Networks (News - Alert) Vice President of Marketing Sally Bament told TMCnet during a recent phone conversation. “It allows an enterprise to build applications out of reusable service components.”
 
Those service components can take a variety of forms, including credit card checks and dips into customer databases. One such service that Bament thinks will be of particular interest during 2007 is the initiation of a phone call from within an application.
 
In fact, Bament predicts that 2007 will be the year during which that service—initiating a phone call—will become mainstreamed as an SOA component. The result will be a change in the way enterprises look at voice applications.
 
Returning for a moment to the topic of SOAs generally, it is worth noting that a big reason why this type of framework is so impactful is that it eliminates the need to build applications from scratch. Instead, using standards-based Web services, a developer can create an application as a composite of various existing services.
 
For example, by reusing various service components, a call center could develop a program that responds to an online user’s request for help by initiating a call, dipping into a customer database to retrieve relevant information, and then sending that information along with the call to the screen of an appropriate agent.
 
The scenario above is quite different, Bament said, from the way telephony functions traditionally have been handled, using a PBX (News - Alert) that is completely separate from other communications systems (e.g. a network that handles e-mail). But, thanks to the advent of converged IP networks, it is now possible to bring voice applications into the realm of other communications.
 
From the end-user perspective, the result of this ‘unified communications’ convergence is a much more efficient workflow. For example, let’s say a person is composing a business correspondence e-mail and needs feedback from a colleague. That person accesses his or her address book, clicks the name of the colleague, and a call is initiated; it is not necessary to look up a phone number or physically dial that number on the phone.
 
In this example, the call could be connected using a voice-enabled PC with a headset, or a regular handset. The underlying SOA framework of the communications system makes this service-within-an-application functionality possible.
 
BlueNote Networks specializes in SOA software solutions that make it easy to embed call initiation and similar services into new or existing applications. Bament said that, although the software itself is complex, the interface is simple enough that IT departments can use it to work with voice applications.
 
More specifically, BlueNote’s SessionSuite SOA Edition is a product that opens up telephony services to programmers so they can easily embed those services into applications.
 
“This is a new market,” she told TMCnet, noting three general trends driving SOA adoption.
 
1. Enterprises are looking to streamline business processes by embedding voice applications in new or existing programs.
 
2. SOAs themselves, which have been around for a while, are becoming more widely adopted by large enterprises in the financial services, government, and transportation logistics industries.
 
3. An eye on efficiency and the bottom line, coupled with technological improvements, is causing some important organizational changes in enterprises. Specifically, IT and telecom groups are working together more often (in some cases even merging into one).
 
SOAs can have a powerful impact on both developers and end-users. For the developer, a product like SessionSuite SOA Edition removes the need to have specialized knowledge of signaling protocols and other complexities; as a result, IT staff are empowered to work with voice services in the applications they create.
 
As mentioned earlier, from the end-user perspective the power of SOAs is represented in applications that do a better job of performing business functions.
 
To illustrate the impact of SOAs for the end-user, Bament used the example of a home-grown financial services application designed to enforce the Chinese wall between analysts and brokers by ensuring that two parties from those camps are never connected directly on the phone.
 
“If a call comes in from an analyst to a broker, a request goes out to a database, and that call then gets redirected to a compliance officer or an automated recording is played,” she explained.
 
The ability to develop such an application with relative ease stands to alter the way communications are handled in three main areas, Bament told TMCnet.
 
1. Employee-to-employee
2. Company-to-customer
3. Company-to-partner
 
In each of these areas, the capabilities enabled by SOAs result in faster and easier communications—and that in turn means a more nimble, efficient enterprise.
 
“The days of the traditional PBX are waning,” Bament said. “2007 is going to be the year when we will really see a change in the way enterprises support and deliver voice communications. And BlueNote will be there.”
 
If you’re attending Internet Telephony Conference and EXPO East in Fort Lauderdale, Florida this month (January 23-26, 2007), don’t miss the January 25 session “The Interactive SOA: Tying IP Telephony to Enterprise Applications,” co-presented by BlueNote’s director of technology and strategy, Mark Ericson.
 
Even more information about SOAs generally and SessionSuite SOA Edition in particular is available on BlueNote’s TMCnet.com channel, SOA.
 
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Mae Kowalke previously wrote for Cleveland Magazine in Ohio and The Burlington Free Press in Vermont. To see more of her articles, please visit Mae Kowalke’s columnist page. Also check out her Wireless Mobility blog.



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