Two Worlds Collide
In recent years, the term SOA has been alternately overused and abused. Though it is widely cited, it is often misunderstood. Simply put, a service-oriented architecture combines independent services that perform specific processes, without any tie to the underlying platform. Rather than having an application or platform speak the same language in order to interact, services can interact in a standard way, regardless of the application they are attached to.
The move to SOA is fairly straightforward, even intuitive, for the IT world to make. But some experts feel that a lack of understanding about SOA has some enterprises sitting on the sidelines, too intimidated to suit up their systems. "Some companies look at SOA and view it as some big, risky move," says Ron Schmeltzer, senior analyst at ZapThink LLC., an SOA research firm in Baltimore. "But the irony is that there is nothing inherently risky about it. Service-oriented architecture can do four things for you: Integrate systems, eliminate redundancies, address change, or increase compliance. All you have to do is apply it to whatever problem you have. It can be a big project or a really small one." Schmeltzer advocates implementing service-oriented architecture piecemeal, addressing one problem area at a time. "There really should not be a budget for SOA," says Schmeltzer. "Just a bunch of little budgets for projects that will use SOA."
To the folks at Volvo Cars Belgium, the move of hooking up with VCC headquarters felt risky and daunting. It felt like a big project. The thought of a big SOA project had Adamo a little nervous. "It took us two years just to figure out how to implement this thing, and now we were going to hook up to their mainframe system?" says Adamo. "It was going to be difficult, very difficult."
But these are the types of problems SOA was designed to solve. Two weeks is all it took for Volvo Cars Belgium to be up and running, interfacing with VCC, with all systems fully functional. "It was so simple," says Cordier, slightly embarrassed. By using an SOA-based enterprise service bus from Progress Software, called Sonic, the company wasn't required to go through an extensive integration process. Instead, the software essentially brokered the transactions between Belgium and Goteborg, translating data along the way.
XDMS is Web-based and SOA-enabled, meaning it is designed to be modular, and different processes are capable of acting independently as services. For Volvo, the enterprise service bus needed only to connect the proper services from Belgium to the corresponding ones in Sweden. "The processes and services were already there," says Adamo. "We just had to connect them to the new callers, and we were able to use the existing user interface. We combined two different worldsand we didn't have to change a single line of code."