The biggest issue with SOA isn't really about SOA

Forrester Research and TechTarget's SOA Survey for 2010 indicates excellent growth for the SOA industry trend that some said was dead.

Even in the midst of the Great Recession, the past year has been very interesting for service-oriented architecture (SOA). Comparing results from Forrester's Business Data Services Enterprise and SMB Software Survey, North America and Europe, for Q4 2008 and Q4 2009, SOA penetration (those currently using SOA plus those planning to use SOA) grew 10% for enterprises (1000+ employees) and 33% for SMBs. Considering the times, this is excellent growth for an industry trend that some said was dead.

Beyond its increasing penetration, SOA users are reporting strong progress and satisfaction with SOA. In the TechTarget/Forrester Research State of SOA Survey for 2010, 61% reported that they are now using SOA on 10% or more of their solution delivery projects — and 12% use SOA on more than 50% of their projects. But here's the real dagger to those that thought SOA was dead: 66% report success with their SOA initiatives, and 23% report considerable success. Indeed, some struggle for benefits — the organizational maturity and discipline required for SOA success does not come easy — but SOA leaders in the industry are showing the way to SOA success.

But here's what is most interesting and surprising in the data: When asked to name their single biggest issue in using SOA, survey respondents reported that the most significant challenge facing SOA initiatives, by far, was beyond SOA itself. 27% said that their biggest concern was "Designing how to do SOA in an integrated way with other initiatives (e.g., BPM, events, BI, rules, etc.)." The second top concern, "Evaluating and selecting the appropriate tools and/or frameworks [for SOA]," was so named by only 13% of respondents.

In other words, the industry is realizing that individual, siloed technology strategies miss the mark — it is a multi-technology world. SOA is important, but business technology (BT) solutions need more than SOA, and they need their SOA approach to be integrated with their approaches to other technology and design domains. By packaging major business transactions as pluggable services, SOA provides a strong foundation for business change.29% of respondents said they are using SOA to support strategic business transformation — but process, events, rules, embedded analytics, and more also embody important aspects of business design and create flexible means to deal with ongoing business change.

The foundational nature of SOA is emphasized in the fact that 71% of survey respondents rate SOA as a technology "most critical to the success of [their] organization's technology efforts." While their ratings of BPM, business rules, legacy modernization, Ajax and rich Internet applications, cloud computing, event processing, and Web-oriented architecture as a "most critical" technology ranged from 37% down to 21% of respondents (multiple responses were allowed).

For several years, Forrester has been pursuing the larger picture around SOA. In 2005, we published our Digital Business Architecture vision — a reframing of technology platforms into four major domains of multi-technology integration, centered around a core of business metadata that defines your processes, policies, events, information flows, and many other aspects of your business. Building on Digital Business Architecture, Forrester is now defining our Business Capability Architecture vision, which provides new ways to plan and evolve a multi-technology strategy built for and centered around continuous improvement of business outcomes. For success on the BT road ahead, you must learn to pursue integrated design of your business and the technology that embodies it.

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