Positioning SOA to deliver flexibility

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As the development of service-oriented architecture (SOA) matures, a shift from application-centric to SOA-centric development has emerged.

So says Jane Thomson, MD of Softworx, an EOH company and reseller of Infor in sub-Saharan Africa, who adds this trend will help SOA deliver on its promises of easy upgrades and application development.

She explains that in the past, the promise of centralised control came up against the reality that no single vendor, and no single ERP system, could support all the needs of a customer.

This led to customers opting for products from niche vendors for best-in-class solutions, like supply chain management or financials, to supplement their existing ERP, continues Thomson. This has resulted in many companies having heterogeneous environments with a 'mishmash' of applications and business platforms, she states.

SOA-centric development can help fix this problem, offers Thomson. The model doesn't deliver new functionality to the core product or through tightly-coupled modules, but as components that augment or enhance the ERP.

Thomson explains that the model can operate as dependents to the core ERP, replacing functionality that used to reside in the big blob, or independently to support a completely new set of business processes.

“This gives customers much more flexibility as to when and how they adopt new functionality, allowing IT to respond with standardised solutions a lot quicker,” she states.

“The real transformation here is that the ERP system as we know it will become a thing of the past. The reality today is that businesses operate centrally and distributed, so their applications must also be able to do so,” advises Thomson.

She adds, however, that this will not happen overnight. Large enterprise applications will remain a part of the IT landscape for a long time, and these must be supported with feature pack upgrades.

“I can't predict what companies will face in years to come, but I do know that we can't just repeat the development sins of the past and leave customers stuck when the business environment inevitably shifts again. That's the beauty of SOA-centric development - customers can remain agile and adapt to whatever environmental changes the future holds,” concludes Thomson.

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