September 30, 2008

Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) - God's Own Architecture

Intended Audience: Anyone and Everyone!

Service Oriented Architecture (SOA), has for long been used by different people in different ways. Some have used this three letter buzzword to sell their products (without actually understanding what it really meant!), while some (a handful) have passionately sold their products by truly implementing SOA. Though there has been a lot of information about SOA in the internet, its always been a tough task to explain this to a layperson (say, a doctor or a fashion designer!)

In this article, we'll try to step aside from the 'serious' and 'geekish' SOA discussion, and get into a lighter way of looking at this three letter buzzword. We all know how complex God's creations have been. From the universe (this is still a black box to mankind!) to the creation of humans, God's creation has always amused mankind. In the IT parlance, God is the supreme architect of all what we see around and inside of us. For the sake of dicussion, in this article, lets consider the Human Body (yes, our very own body!) as a product, and SOA as the architecture. Do you see some similarities? Read on...

Before we jump any further, lets quickly recall the SOA Reference Architecture, as defined by IBM (an undisputed leader in this space!)

SOA

Above picture shows the SOA Reference Architecture defined by IBM. A closer look at it shows the different aspects of the SOA. The Enterprise Service Bus is the core integration backbone of the SOA. The rest of them are self-explanatory. Without delving much into this, lets quickly jump back into our mainstream discussion - God's Own Architecture.

Lets extend SOA to the Human Body. As we all understand, the human body is one of the most complex, robust, flexible and agile systems. The below diagram is what I used to explain SOA to a doctor friend of mine.

SOA Human Body

A closer look at the above diagram will be good enough for you to understand the similarity. The Spinal System is the core of the human body (Its the integration layer!). The human brain takes care of the Process and Interaction Services. The human body is the most complex implementation based on SOA! This is very obvious with the fact that one cannot map a certain part of the body to only one aspect of SOA. For example, the human brain is so complex that one cannot rule out the participation of the human brain in Partner Services or Interaction Services.

In simple terms, apart from making laypeople understand SOA, the attempt here is to convey that Service Oriented Archtiecture (SOA) is God's Own Architecture (or, atleast close to it!). SOA has to be applied to the context of an industry to be able to understand its actual business value. In this article, we took the human body as an example. One might also want to consider the Solar System (with the Sun as the ESB, and so on) when explaining SOA to an astronomer.

So, Remember...SOA as a plain technology or business statement DOES NOT sell (and the world has seen this)! Industry content is the key!
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