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February 2008 | Volume 11/ Number 2
Thinking IT Through

Thinking IT Through SOA What Or, for our Canadian friends, SO “A” What

Seriously, we in the converging infotainment industry always are, like Indiana Jones — looking for the “Lost Ark” — striving for the next “silver bullet”, the “killer app”. So, how does SOA, or Service Oriented Architecture, fit into this long-running, many-act play and what are some likely outcomes and opportunities. . . especially for network service providers?

What is SOA anyway? As Wikipedia sees it, “Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) is an architectural style that guides all aspects of creating and using business processes, packaged as services, throughout their lifecycle, as well as defining and provisioning the IT infrastructure that allows different applications to exchange data and participate in business processes loosely coupled from the operating systems and programming languages underlying those applications.” I’m not one to question Wikipedia, but let’s see if I can help explain this further.

Every major equipment and software vendor is either “on the SOA bandwagon” already and playing their own riff on the tune, or, at a minimum, seeking their “seat on the SOA-bus”. We’ve heard a similar mantra many times before — with an endless succession of different names (OSI, ISDN, structured programming, IMS, etc.) that keep changing in the hope that we forget the previous ones and their often less-than-glorious outcomes.

But, despite my healthy skepticism, there does seem to be a difference here, with SOA. We may have reached a “Tipping Point” — the “Holy Grail” may almost exist. Why? Well, several things have changed. . . our processors are almost infinitely fast, our storage is about limitless, enough bandwidth is almost available, the Internet is virtually ubiquitous and very Open, and many services providers realize they cannot do everything themselves. . . so that a software process emulating or modeling (some might call it running) a business process can have the capability to find the “tool” it needs to connect to the required communicator (or other process) to make the business decision or provide access to another service to allow a consumer to be authenticated for security (or have their rights verified) to watch the video he or she wants to see on the device he or she has available. And, along the way, enough information has been identified and captured for a transaction record to be created so that the proper billing and revenue sharing may occur amongst the various players (the content owners, the aggregator, the network provider, etc.) — either on-line or off-line, as the service model requires. No individual participant in the transaction does everything — they rely on each other to do their portion of the process and share in providing the ultimate result — a satisfied customer.

A pipedream? I hope not. SOA seems to provide the tools, broad industry attention and awareness to allow the various pieces to become architected together to provide virtually any service at any device on any network that a user/subscriber/business wants. What’s needed now is to describe, define or create the business models so all of the many players can live well together and make this “21st Century Search for the Ark” not be as futile as in the past. It’s up to us. IT

David Yedwab is a Founding Partner in Market Strategy and Analytics Partners LLC. Contact him at 908-879-2835 or david.yedwab@mktstrategy-analytics.

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