Study shows SOA worries systems integrators

Study examins the impact of SOA on IT contractors

Although SOA efforts are still early-stage at most organizations, systems integrators who work for government agencies are concerned that SOA efforts might put them out of a job. So says the Input Executive Forum, a trade organization representing federal contractors and agencies. Instead of hiring systems integrators to add new capabilities into existing IT environments, "agencies with a SOA environment can just acquire the services they need," says Deniece Peterson, a senior analyst at Input whose study examined the impact of SOA on IT contractors.

Only a few US federal agencies -- including the Defense Dept., NASA, Treasury Dept., SEC, and FBI -- have significant SOA efforts under way, Peterson notes. Elsewhere, SOA efforts are typically small test projects or still in the research and design phases, she says. That slow uptake means IT providers haven't yet seen much shift away from traditional integration efforts in federal project proposals. "But they can see it coming," Peterson says. "When that time comes, they'll need to offer SOA services."

While IT contractors are beginning to worry about possible loss of systems integration work, federal agencies that have a SOA agenda have their own concerns, Peterson notes. Many of the SOA-enabling technologies being sold to them contain proprietary components that interfere with SOA's promise of standards-based modularity. "The agencies are looking for standards, so this is slowing them down," she says.

The other concern is a lack of SOA-skilled IT talent within the federal agencies, many of whom are facing a brain drain across the board due to the high percentage of retirement-age employees. Ironically, this lack of inside talent may help IT contractors -- if they can fill the gap by providing SOA-savvy architects, developers, and project managers, Peterson says.

Although Peterson's research focused on the implications of federal SOA efforts, she suspects a similar set of issues exists in corporate IT environments. There, too, is an ecosystem of systems integrators accustomed to a series of integration projects in large enterprises -- particularly in finance and telecom -- who are looking at SOA as a way to reduce the integration need.

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