SOA adoption rises on business value – Forrester

SOA adoption continue to grow in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific with business enablement as the driver, according to an annual survey by Forrester Research Inc.

More organizations are implementing service-oriented architecture (SOA) as a business enabler.

Some people talk about SOA as if SOA had changed over the years.
Randy Heffner
Vice PresidentForrester Research Inc.

That is what Forrester Research Inc. found in its annual SOA adoption survey published this month. The survey has shown steady growth in North America, Europe and Asia Pacific during the past three years, but 2007 was a banner year, says Randy Heffner, vice president at Forrester Research Inc. That helps explain the survey title, "SOA Adoption: Many Firms Got Started in 2007".

"The IT industry is continuing its strong adoption of SOA, according to Forrester's latest survey data," Heffner writes. "A year ago, our data highlighted a general slowness in moving from SOA planning to actual use of SOA. This slowness disappeared in 2007's data, with strong growth in current use of SOA across North America, Europe, and Asia Pacific regions."

In 2005, the survey found 53 percent of enterprises were "using or planning to use SOA." By 2006, that number had grown to 62 percent, and in 2007 it reached 66 percent. More importantly for the theme of the latest survey, enterprises with an "enterprise level strategy and commitment to SOA" went from 18 percent in 2005, to 22 percent in 2006, and 26 percent in 2007.

In an equally telling statistic, the percentage of enterprises reporting that they were not pursuing SOA and had no immediate plans to do so fell from a high of 47 percent in 2005, to 33 percent in 2007.

The survey also found that the business benefits of SOA are coming to the forefront and helping drive adoption.

"The major theme is the growing recognition of SOA as an important enabler for strategic business transformation," Heffner said in an interview with SearchSOA.com.

The analyst finds it ironic that some people think touting the business value of SOA is a new trend, mistakenly believing that SOA was originally about IT issues such as Web services reuse. For more than five years Forrester analysts have been focused on SOA as a business enabler, Heffner said.

"Some people talk about SOA as if SOA had changed over the years," he said. "No, SOA hasn't changed. The right way to do SOA hasn't changed."

He said the survey shows that as more and more IT professionals gain hands-on experience doing SOA, they come to the realization that the technology goes beyond issues of reuse and see it as a business enabler.

It is important for SOA architects to keep the business benefits at the top of the agenda when talking to business managers and executives, who will ultimately have a say in budget allocations, Heffner said.

In budget discussions, he suggests that IT people focus on SOA as a way to provide business flexibility rather than focusing on more technical issues such as Web services reuse.

He warns that the often touted reuse benefit of SOA is a tricky topic, because the values of reuse are not always clear and first glance.

"There's a lot of ways to go wrong with it," he said. "There's a lot of silliness in how we try to focus on reuse."

To illustrate his point, he offers the example of two Web services. One is being reused 20 times and the other is being re-used two times. So he asks, "Which is better?"

The answer he often receives is the obvious one that the Web service being reused 20 times is better. But, he said, what if the analysis of the business indicates that the one being used two times should be used two times because that is how many times the application scenario for it occurs? However, the analysis shows that the one being used 20 times should be used 50 times.

"Now," he asks, "which one is better reuse?" Then he answers: "The one that is used two times."

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He recommends that architects talk about SOA to business people in terms of business agility and flexibility, things they will understand, appreciate and hopefully pay for thus furthering the cause of SOA adoption.

The report focuses on SOA adoption in 2007, but Heffner was asked if he thought the curve would continue its upward movement even if 2008 turns out to be a recessionary year. He answered that while he has no data on the year, it is possible that tighter IT budgets may actually spur further SOA adoption.

"There are conditions under budget stress that actually encourage the use of SOA," he said. "For example, one benefit of SOA is that it extends the life of legacy applications. Say we were going to rewrite this application and spend $X millions, but we figured out we didn't have to because with a fourth of the money we could get where we needed to by SOA-enabling a legacy application."

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