SOA drives compliance, open services opportunities

SOAs are creating opportunities for enterprises grappling with regulatory compliance challenges and seeking creative data sharing with key partners and customers, according to a group of IT executives speaking during a panel discussion at the InfoWorld SOA Executive Forum.

Compliance represents a major opportunity with SOA, according to Jon Udell, editor and lead analyst at InfoWorld. Udell moderated the panel discussion that explored various opportunities and challenges with enterprise SOA implementations.

"Fundamental to these service efforts is the idea of open data, and the ability to inspect and monitor data," Udell said.

In light of compliance pressures, many enterprises are taking advantage of SOA to simplify their portfolios and back-end architectures, according to Bruce Graham, vice president of worldwide professional services at BEA Systems.

"We didn't (design) systems to be inspected, but with Sarbanes-Oxley, that is happening. Customers are looking at SOA to simplify the whole back end, to simplify their portfolio, and set (up) policy engines that can be inspected," he said.

Jim Culbert, CTO of MetraTech, which provides service-oriented telecom billing systems, said his telecom customers are currently going through Sarbanes compliance efforts.

"The fact that we have SOA architecture and (an) XML-based flow where an auditor can point at (specific) steps in the process makes (compliance efforts) easier," Culbert said.

Another key compliance-related benefit, according to Rohit Khare, research director at CommerceNet Labs, a nonprofit think tank, is that Web services and SOA "raise the possibility that we can install policies that cut across all existing applications," he said.

Network effects that are emerging with SOA include open services, which can result in creative data combinations.

Udell pointed out the example of what he called a "remix," in which a programmer created a new application by fusing data from Google Maps and Craigslist real-estate listings.

The result, Udell said, was a Web page that displayed Google Maps on one side, and Craigslist data on the other, allowing people to peruse a visual map of housing listings through Google's map services. The combined Web page showed the exact location of a Craigslist housing listing, complete with other information from the listing such as real estate broker contact info.

In a corporate setting, this open services opportunity created by SOA enables customers and outside developers to be inventive with data, according to BEA's Graham.

With SOA, "companies will have the ability to create something, put it out to customers, and let them do something far beyond what you can imagine. With Web services, you can break open processes and let people see into them," Graham said. "(It's) almost an open source of the application."

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