The Attributer’s Blog – Service Orientated

It’s the New Year and we take another look at Business Attributes from the SABSA Business Attributes Taxonomy, looking at what these might mean in the coming year. This time we examine what might be meant by ‘service oriented’, since it seems that this might be changing in its nature as we move forward into ‘everything-as-a-service’.

Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) is a business-centric IT architectural approach that supports integrating your business as linked, repeatable business tasks, or services (Source: IBM). One of the goals is to reduce the number of business applications and hence save costs, but the main focus is on creating an IT environment that has the flexibility to move and develop at the speed of business. The chief drivers for this are global competition and time-to-market. Business leaders are riding the wave of mobile technologies and trying to harness the skills of Generation Y – those who have grown up with information technology from the cradle to the workplace and who’s expectations are very different from those of previous generations. The way forward to achieve this ‘New Way of Working’ is to provide cloud services for maximum flexibility in connectivity and functionality.

For a long time we have talked about the enterprise service bus (ESB) as the core infrastructure concept of a SOA. The ESB provides logical connections between service providers and service consumers using well-defined interfaces. In the 1990’s this was first developed using middleware – a layer that sits between the hardware and the application software. At first this was little more than a messaging bus to provide a virtual connection between clients and servers – the first steps towards virtualization. By 2002 The Gartner Group was using the term Enterprise Service Bus. By this they meant a concept that had become much more than a simple message queuing layer. It now embraced a multi-layered ‘stack’ that supported business process automation. By 2008 Gartner was using the term ‘cloud computing’ to describe the relationship between consumers of IT services and their suppliers, many of which were by this time third parties, following on from the trend of outsourcing the ownership of hardware and the hosting of applications.

Now it is 2013 and things have moved on further. Now we divide the rather complex stack into main categories of ‘infrastructure as a service’ (IaaS –meaning the hardware and networks), ‘platform as a service’ (PaaS – meaning a completely virtualized computing platform including operating system functionality) and ‘software as a service’ (SaaS – meaning the development of business applications using tools and functionality provided by the PaaS). Each of these layers has many sub-layers and the complete stack is a highly refined multi-layered architectural approach that provides for agile software development and the ability to move at what people are calling ‘the speed of business’. This latter characteristic is exactly what business has been complaining has been lacking in previous generations of IT architecture, and the expectation of meeting this requirement is what will be challenging corporate IT departments in the coming year. With the emergence of third party cloud services providers the very future of the corporate IT department is itself in question: who needs them and what will be their new role?

So how shall we as architects meet this new challenge? If speed of change and maximum flexibility are to be achieved, then having an infrastructure and platform base that is managed by a formal change request process is not going to work. We need to provide a rich tool-kit of functions and services that are ‘ready for use’ by those agile application development teams. This means that we can no longer think in pure technology terms and have IT strategies that are driven by technical knowledge alone. Instead we need to be engaging with the business on a constant basis and providing a PaaS that is business-ready. Previous architectural approaches have failed to do this and will continue to fail unless we change our strategy. This is where the whole method of SABSA Business Attributes Profiling comes into play.

It is no coincidence that during this new year of 2013 the next generation of TOGAF will be published. In that publication SABSA Business Attributes Profiling will be introduced as the central method for requirements management for all architectural work conducted under the TOGAF umbrella. This then will show the way forward for those who are challenged with providing a private PaaS and other private and hybrid cloud services. It will be by engaging with business stakeholders and knowing their business strategies that architects will succeed in meeting demands for new services. So what does the ‘service oriented’ attribute mean? It means the entire concept of Business Attribute Profiling as the future of business solution development. We wish you all a Happy New Year.

The Attributer

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