McDonald's, Chevron, Boeing Tout Real-World SOA

At Microsoft's SOA and Business Process Conference, technology leaders from the large enterprise organizations of McDonald's, Chevron and Boeing share their experiences implementing service-oriented architecture using Microsoft tools and technology.

REDMOND, Wash.-With a core focus of Microsoft's SOA and Business Process Conference here identified as "Real World SOA," Microsoft called on three enterprise customers to discuss their efforts to deploy service-oriented architecture.

The enterprise customers were Chevron, McDonald's and Boeing. Thomas Cogswell, engineering manager for Boeing Research and Technology, said Boeing runs some 5,600 applications in the engineering space. "And SOA has been something we've been working in since 2001," he said. "Microsoft is a strategic partner with The Boeing Company."

Cogswell said Boeing has been successful in implementing SOA "because we don't talk to our people about SOA, we talk about the capability. We look at how to solve a pain point. That's why Microsoft's modeling efforts fit right into what we've been doing-understanding the problem and what it needs before we get started."

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McDonald's had two representatives on the customer panel: Tom Gergets, senior director and technology lead, and Eng Chong Lim, enterprise architect for the fast food giant. Lim said McDonald's has "more than 30,000 restaurants we have to send data to. I develop the solution and he deploys it," Lim said, referring to Gergets.

Speaking of modeling, Sean Gordon, enterprise architect at Chevron, said he is interested in Microsoft's "Oslo" modeling solution. "The ability to take the underlying architecture and map it to the business problem without having to learn UML [Unified Modeling Language]" is a good thing, he said.

The representatives of the three companies also discussed the issue of staffing or finding IT workers with the requisite skills to implement SOA. Gordon said Chevron selected some skilled architects within the organization to work on the SOA deployment. "We also entered into a deal with Microsoft, HP [Hewlett-Packard], EDS and also Conchango to bring in some agile development experts."

McDonald's Lim said the burger behemoth outsourced the development for its core SOA project.

Cogswell said, "From a staffing perspective I look for architects who like building stuff." However, the Boeing work force is aging, Cogswell said. "The average age in Boeing now is 57 and we're dealing with that ..." But, in general, he said, "If you're not in bits, you're not in the know."

Gergets said the McDonald's IT organization lives by the mantra, "Simplify, standardize, modernize." Explaining that organizational agility was among the core reasons McDonald's got into SOA, Gergets said, "McDonald's is a big machine. It takes a lot to make things happen, so we want to be able to quickly address the changes that need to be made."

For his part, Cogswell said the organizational and technological changes that Boeing makes are "customer-driven. They are based on what I call customer 'desirements,'" he said.

Yet, with all the promise of SOA, how do you measure success? "Our measure of success is, How many apps do we get deployed?" Gordon said. "The initial perception was we focused very much on reuse. Now it's much more about reuse of services, processes and applications."

Cogswell said for Boeing the measure of success is value. "The big key is value," he said. Cogswell went on to say Boeing's SOA practices and its lean development processes bring value to Boeing's IT and engineering groups.