SOA in the Cloud

For those of you with a good memory you will have vague memories about SOA that was one of the big buzz words some years ago. SOA was supposed to be the silver bullet that solved integration problems, you could put together different services, build on top of other services and magically compose new services. What happened to SOA? The answer is that it is right in front of you, but you cannot see it.

On my way to Espo Finland together with Jostein Håvaldsrud in Visma Mamut I got some time on the plane to think about the SOA concept. We are now looking into how we can integrate all the service platforms Visma has acquired over the years. It is in fact an impressive list of different services. We have for example Netvisor online ERP in Finland, Severa, Visma Online, Bizweb the newly launched On Demand Payroll system and more. Nobody should be surprised if more services are added in the near future. Now is time to pull services together and offer a complete Visma suite. The only way to do this is to have a federated approach which is just a nice name for letting the service do what they do best and integrate them together. That means exchanging customer, company, users information etc. and standardize on a single sign on.

Everybody that has been in the IT business for some time and especially those that have been involved in integration of diverse business systems like ERP gets a bit worried when they hear you are “just” doing an integration. How will this work now? All the On Demand applications we are working with have more or less well defined service interfaces. All with web service interface and some with message based interfaces in addition. This is because they are all built from the ground up to be hosted and delivering services on the web. These systems are really built on a Service Oriented Architecture. Web services are not equal to SOA itself but can play an important part as the way to expose services. So the question is do we realize any of the benefits that SOA promised us?

I think the simple answer is: yes. But not in the sense that you just search for a service in a service catalogue and then you are up and running.

The technical integration job is much simpler than what we experienced with some of the good old fashion business systems designed and built in the 1990s. Obviously you still need to sort out the semantics ie. what does you integrating system need and what does it mean. But technical integration and the availability of service interfaces makes the job less demanding and achieve a more loose coupling of the different systems. This also promise well for future external integrations of On Demand solutions. In practice the easier integrations for our partners to the systems On Demand.

So as most successful technologies the fuzz ad buzz has simply become mainstream and everywhere without even notice this. This happens all the time, when I studied Artificial Intelligence in the 80´s we worked with pattern recognition algorithms that recognized patterns like bar codes. Not many people think about this as artificial intelligence today when they routinely “bip” items through the checkout at the local supermarked. For the reference bar codes was invented back in 1948, but go to Visma Retail if you need an expert in that area.

Jostein discuess

Here you see Jostein from Visma Mamut in a discussion.