'SOA is working' for Edinburgh financial company

Russell Irwin of Standard Life lists SOA savings and benefits over several years. Still, he cautions software architects to right-size their first SOA efforts. Don't start with the Holy Grail, he suggests.

SOA is working, said Russell Irwin, who spearheaded a multi-year services-oriented effort for a Scotland-based

financial services company. Irwin claimed considerable cost savings through software reuse, and faster time to market for innovative end-user applications, as a result of a 10-plus-year effort.

Still, Irwin cautions others to be sure to correctly size their first SOA efforts if they want to see SOA successes. They also must assert aggressive leadership.

"You need strong SOA leadership to enforce design and governance patterns," said Irwin, Group Technology Director for Standard Life, headquartered in Edinburgh, Scotland. He spoke as part of IBM's Impact Smart SOA Conference 2009 in Las Vegas.

While admitting that some people see SOA as 'the biggest hype since hype began," Irwin said he has seen considerable value in this approach to business software development and delivery. The effort has led to more reliable business processes, he suggested. SOA, said Irwin, "gives us consistent use of business functions across channels."

Irwin estimated about $40 million in IT savings within a systems pool of 227 applications and 569 services. "We have 1493 instances of reuse," he said, defining 're-use' as a service that is used more than once. Irwin's group rolled out new functions and applications, but has not increased staffing.

"Start small," is one of Irwin's tips for would be SOA warriors.

"Start small with services you are confident will get used. You don't have to wait for the one service that will [do] it all," he said.

Irwin suggested that architects of services not only size initial projects modestly; they should also avoid the inclination to start first with an effort that shows off their best architectural skills, but that doesn't achieve near-term results for their business sponsors.

"You don't have to hold out for the Holy Grail," he said.

How SOA is presented to business managers is important. Today, the SOA champion should make a special point to show the risk control that consistent SOA programs can deliver.

"Report business value not architectural purity," he said. "It is unlikely you will succeed through architectural purity alone."

Meanwhile, keeping track of re-use and other cost saving benefits is important.

"Measure, measure, measure," said Irwin. It is only with adequate software and business metrics that you can truly to demonstrate SOA's efficiencies.

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