Monday, September 24, 2007

SOA: distributed concept for business-IT alignment

Service Oriented Architecture has a business-perspective and an IT-perspective. Recognizing these two view-points makes SOA a means of business-IT alignment. BPM, BAM and business events are the key to business-IT alignment, as explained below.

Looking from the business side (top layer in the figure above), there is the decomposition of the business into interacting autonomous business functions. These functions offer services to each other and communicate - preferably - events based to obtain their autonomy. These service providers no longer focus only internally on the organization, but they are seeking for external markets to offer their services. To excel in a competitive market a high level of autonomy is required.

This is not an IT aspect, but purely business.

A top-down approach to decompose the business into autonomous business functions is offered by IBM's Component Business Modeling. The autonomous business functions can also be composed from concrete tasks analyzed in a bottom-up approach.

Composite applications: IT-oriented SOA

On the other hand there is the composition of application constructs. This is about reusable and sharable stateless components from an IT perspective (software components). The granularity of these functional components "goes to the bottom". It's just common modular and structured design and programming practice, originating from the 70's.

Business-IT alignment: BPM, BAM, business events

The top level of such an application construct preferably maps with autonomous business functions. Current standards based technologies make it possible for IT to support events based interaction between the autonomous business functions, to monitor these events and to align interacting business functions with supporting IT-components.

Business is aligned with IT by means of BPM (business process management). BPM supports the mapping of real life business functions including their mutual interactions to their IT software equivalents. At this layer business events are mapped to software messages and business activity can be monitored (BAM) by means of analyzing the corresponding software messages. So BPM, BAM and captured business events are the hinges between business and IT: they all have a business relevance and at the same time an IT relevance.

Location and technology virtualization: ESB

The Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) is a Web Services deployment platform that virtualizes different locations and different technologies. It supports:

  • Mapping from the services at the composite applications model to software deployments by means of Service Component Architecture (SCA)
  • Deployment of Web Services standards like XML, WSDL, SOAP and WS-*
  • Asynchronous communications by means of underlying queuing mechanisms
  • Distributed access to software components by means of distributed local presence of the ESB
User defined services may be deployed on the ESB to mediate the messages in terms of validation, enrichment, transformations (canonical formats), aggregations, security and indirection (logical routing).

From a distributed point of view, the ESB forms an intelligent layer on the network. At every place where software functionality must be unleashed by a network connection, an ESB access-point is present as a connector between the software component and the network services. The ESB decouples the local software components from the network. The distributed ESB access-points rely on the network services.

Connectivity: network

At the physical layer, connectivity is offered by the network in terms of domains, routing, switching, firewalls and wiring. Supporting services at the network layer are, among others: DHCP (host configuration), DSN (domain naming and indirection), SNMP (network management), SNTP (time services), etcetera.

The ESB makes local software components agnostic for connectivity at the network layer. This releases software implementation from connectivity details. Using the Web Services based ESB platform makes the configuration of the network a lot easier. Firewall rules and IP-connectivity focus on the generic local ESB access-points and not on the distinct ever changing application components anymore.


Software components as well as business functions are physically present at locations; not necessarily in a one-to-one relationship. Software components may be located in one or more data centers, while business may be located in moving trains. Multiple instances of software components as well as business functions may be implemented at one ore multiple locations. But also one instance may be stretched over multiple locations. Moreover multiple technologies may be implemented at the locations. Physical access to the systems is deployed at the locations where people are part of the business functions.

The network connects these locations and the ESB virtualizes these locations, including virtualization of technologies and (redundant) component deployments.


SOA is not a sequential initiative but a concurrent one at all levels.

It is modern business practice to look at the company in terms of services (non-IT). It is also modern systems development practice to look at software components in terms of services (something quite different from business services). BPM maps business services to software services. And finally it is modern infrastructure practice to virtualize locations and technologies in terms of Web Services. Not the one after the other, but concurrently...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for the beneficial article.