Taking The SOA Challenge

By Jennifer Zaino  |  Posted 07-11-2007 Print Email

Taking The SOA Challenge
SOA and Web services afford many benefits, but also can present many challenges, particularly when it comes to governance.

Early on, Valero developers, like their counterparts at many companies, became so enthralled by the power and ease of SOA that they quickly churned out 300 services--minus the reusability. "It was like giving a kid a new hammer," Zesch says. "They start nailing things to the trees, to the walls, to the car--you have to set up a governance model."

Nayyar wrested control, jettisoning services she deemed unnecessary and collapsing the remaining services down to a total of 50 before moving forward with new builds. "Unless you can catalog, find and use these services," she says, "you just end up with a virtual junk drawer of services. "

Indeed, governance is critical, yet it's one of the key items people tend to overlook during SOA implementations, when they are focused on the technology. "The technology is the easy part," says Richard Mark Soley, executive director of the SOA Consortium advocacy group and chairman and CEO of the Object Management Group. (The SOA Consortium comprises end users, service providers and technology vendors committed to helping Global 1000 companies adopt SOA, and the OMG is non-profit industry consortium whose task forces develop enterprise integration standards.)

The NetWeaver platform provides a good method of managing and controlling the development and changes to services, Zesch says--that's another reason Valero chose NetWeaver. The Java Development Infrastructure integral to NetWeaver provides a change management service that centralizes administration and quality management tasks. "The change management structure is something a fair number of people don't think about," he says.  

Seeing SOA Savings
Little by little, the savings from doing away with proprietary interfaces add up. But Valero has also realized big savings in one fell swoop, thanks to an enterprise services-enabled application that provided visibility into tanker transportation schedules and enabled Valero to save nearly a half-million dollars in demurrage fees incurred when ships sit idle at a dock. Previously, Valero didn't have an effective way to monitor the docking and unloading of its oil tankers at ports worldwide, so some wound up at the same port simultaneously, even though they couldn't load or unload cargo at the same time. Now, Valero's transportation department employees, located at its San Antonio headquarters, can monitor tankers and then communicate with employees at the refineries where docks are located. The application, which provides an easy-to-read graphical interface to show conflicts, enables Valero to make more informed docking decisions, avoiding scheduling conflicts and saving time and money.

Also thanks to SOA, Valero now can monitor and troubleshoot business processes with a few XI screens, on which a process is laid out like a diagram with details on progress and problems highlighted. Valero can track how long it takes to get from one step of a business process to another, and can coordinate business and technology teams to improve performance.

Indeed, every day Valero benefits from SOA, often getting the information and functionality it needs in real time. But in most cases, employees don't realize it. "A lot of people in the operations area, the finance area, the marketing area.... they would not know, nor would they want to know, how it was accomplished," says Zesch. "They just want to know that it was accomplished, and works well for their part of the business."

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