Thursday, September 15, 2005

SOA Chaos?

Britton Manasco (ZDNet) picks up a story from The advantage is the disadvantage. You can break business processes down to their most granular, logical elements; focus your development efforts on where you can provide the most differentiation; and let someone else handle the overflow or the low-profit transactions. But you open yourself up to a management challenge the likes of which you've never seen."

Britton adds: "SOA and BPO (business process outsourcing) aren't a natural match, apparently. Some think the two together can even unleash the forces of chaos."

But the challenge of SOA has always been a dual one: not just the decomposition of business processes into separate (loosely coupled, reusable and outsourceable) services, but also the composition of these services back into a coherent (integrated) business process. In the project described by Howard, at least in the first iteration, it looks as if lots of effort went into the decomposition, but not enough thought went into the composition. That sounds like a recipe for disaster whether you mix in BPO or not.

So is BPO irrelevant to this story? Not quite. With BPO it's not so easy to fudge the service-orientation, and the composition failure is more obvious. Perhaps that's not such a bad thing.

And Howard's story has a happy end. The company was able to to redesign the way messages were handled to ensure that the system-management application only logged the most critical ones. In other words, the service decomposition apparently performed okay once they got the composition right; the solution didn't perform properly at first but could be adapted until it did. Perhaps this is evidence that SOA works after all.

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