Ok, so the follow-up question to my post "Why SOA?" seems to be "SOA, an Executive Overview?"...
I really have a hard time explaining SOA and the benefits of it to the executive layer in the company. They don't really grasp the technology, nor do they care about technology, so how do you explain the benefits of SOA so they'd understand it without getting into technology?
Metaphors has done the trick for me, and here let me tell you a story that won't be technical at all, so all tech-nerds can jump off this train right now.
Imagine some time ago, as far back as the beginning of the last century (that is the 1900's if you lost track) where people lived spread out and managed their own farms and villages. There where not much need for integration as most of the work was done on the farm and you only occasionally had to visit the village to pick up some supplies and maybe trade for other goods. (Metaphor: Systems/Application ran isolated and where thinly spread out).
Then people started to gather together in villages which in some occasions became towns... This presented a whole new type of problems, first they realized that we need someone in charge (Metaphor: SOA Governance). Once they had someone that could make decisions (hopefully through a democratic process) for the greater mass they could start putting some structure to things. The "goverment" (read: governance) created rules for how to build your house, where and how roads would connect these houses. The also built centers, like a town-hall, which would be easily accessible to the public and that could spread information to all citizens. (Metaphor: Point-to-point integration and a broadcast model).
This was working out great until the town grew too big and the planning didn't take into account the widespread need for building houses (i.e. adding systems and applications). The planning committee needed to address this and make up for shortcomings such as deliveries not finding the right address and that the fire-wagon (yes, they used wagons in that time) couldn't get through crowded streets or would be turning into a street too narrow to get through. (Metaphor: delivery failures, performance issues and too narrow channels/bandwidth to handle the traffic).
This was maybe not too much of a concern to the "government" and their closest allies (read ERP and/or financial systems) who had a great time in the city center and the fire-wagon parked in a shed close by.
What they came to realize though was that the more houses that burnt to the ground and the more deliveries being lost the less business the town made which of course hit the town economy quite hard after some time. We can only hope that the "government" got wind of this in time before things got really bad...
Anyhow, as soon as they realized that this was not good for the town (or its economy) they started to think of how to overcome these issues. As they had gotten into a mess of roads leading in all different directions and had delivery routes going criss-cross between shops and customers as well as letting foreign customers in from different routes they had a hard time trying to figure out where to start. Someone (who probably had read SOA for dummies) came up with the idea to build a main-street, leading from one end of the town to the other. This of course improved things and even though it lead to tearing down and rebuilding a few house it came out a good investment in the end (Metaphor: Hub-and-spoke integration).
There where, however, still many houses in the outskirts that didn't benefit at all from this new main-street and some started complaining that they where left out while some other of these outskirt houses where very happy because they did not benefit from the main-street and only saw all that buzz and commotion as something negative and stressful.
These happy outskirt houses knew where they had to go for their business and had no intention of letting the "government" know what they where doing. This was especially true for the houses dealing with those foreigners roaming through town as they could conceal their traffic and benefit from not having to follow the rules and build whatever solutions they liked to accommodate the foreigners. The foreigners had no way of letting the "government" know they where unhappy or had to wait outside for several hours to find a vacant room. Eventually some got tired of waiting and gave up while others just threw in their load and carried on their journey without caring if someone ever picked it up. (Metaphor: Indifferent B2B handling and bad monitoring).
It took quite some time for the "government" to realize this "outskirts" business as they only saw what was closest, their brand new and shiny main-street and how happy their closest acquaintances where (remember those ERP and financial systems?). The "outskirt-ers" weren't too happy about being up for a closer inspection and reported back that all is well and good and that business is thriving. This is where the story normally ends (unfortunately) but some business keeps their wits and takes a closer look at their complete business area. If they do this, which is one of my main work assignments; the B2B Workshop by Enfo Zystems, we get into a new set of architecture and design of the town...
So, now they stand in front of a huge undertaking... How are they going to clear this out and manage to get control and a working governance again?
Clearly something has gone wrong since the renegades in the outskirts area has been able to roam free and create a mess. Thinking about it, their initial idea with the main-street was not bad, not bad at all actually, but they would have needed to extend it and made sure that all could have accessed it directly. That's a very clever idea they might think but it's very difficult getting every one on board and having them turn onto the main-street all the time, plus it makes a very long street, right?
Well, if it's long doesn't really matter since we travel as fast as an electron through a copper wire (normally a CAT5 Ethernet cable) so we really don't need to take the length into account, just stretch it and bend it as much as you like (yes, electrons can bend too...).
We know have decided to build a long stretch of road with entrances and exits for each and every house, reminds me a bit of a free-way, doesn't it? ;)
Now imagine this free-way with those entrances and exits extending out into the suburbs and also covering the outskirts. This means that all those foreigners also have to start their trip into town on the free-way. That, in turn, means that we could place a toll-booth over the free-way and monitor all that passes through!
Now let's extend that to toll-booths on all exits and entrances on and off the free-way, now that's a great idea because now we can keep track of who is on the freeway and where they came from.
This, along with some great and up-to-date maps, which are now easy to maintain, gives us a full overview of our town (read: integration platform).
This is really exiting to the "government" as they realized they can also add labels to each vehicle (read: message) traveling on the free-way. They soon also realize that these labels could include the worth of each traveler helping them to know exactly how much of their belongings is going up and down that road. That way they will be able to tell which travelers on the road that is bringing home the money!
Let's also add some emergency-phones if some of those vehicles get lost or breaks down for some reason, that way we know where they are and where they came from and how to help them (Metaphor: help-desk and real-time monitoring).
And just imagine how easy it would be to add a house or remove a house or rebuild a house... Just tell the free-way planning committee about your plans and how they should redirect traffic during that time and handle your ramp when you are back in business.
They still see a few issues though as some of those foreigners don't speak the language... The "government" comes up with the idea that someone who understands both languages can translate so have the foreigner drive off the freeway into a "translation center" (read transformation service) to explain their business to one of the natives and then have that native drive over to the receiver with it instead...
Now, that is a better town layout, isn't it, and doesn't it also remind you a bit about the SOA idea...?