Step No. 4: Explore ways to do more with less
Once the business case is built for SOA, it is critical to learn from the many organizations that pursued aggressive, "strategic" SOA initiatives and ultimately failed. Avoid at all costs any "big bang" vendor-driven approaches that involve any rip/replace of infrastructure, long service engagements and promises of ROI in the "out years." Instead, focus on tools and approaches that enable low entry cost and incremental investment, with the ability to prove the ROI before scaling further. Any infrastructure should adapt to existing IT assets, including both application assets and even existing SOA infrastructure (for example, existing Enterprise Service Buses, integration brokers and governance tools).
During the planning stages, perform a comprehensive total cost of ownership analysis, taking into account all capital and operational costs, along with timing. Some of these considerations might include the following three:
a. Software costs and timing. For example, upfront license costs versus pay-as-you-go alternatives such as SAAS (software as a service) or open-source subscriptions.
b. Architecture and implementation considerations. Such as rip/replace versus infrastructure that works with existing assets.
c. Resource allocation. Focusing limited in-house resources on high-value activities (for example, fulfilling business requirements) rather than commodity activities (for example, troubleshooting) by selecting professionally supported tools (for example, open-source platforms with commercial support offerings).
Step No. 5: Govern and measure
It is now widely understood that SOA does not stop at implementation. Indeed, it is imperative to set up the organizational processes and tools for ongoing governance and measurement. In a constrained budget environment, a targeted and pragmatic approach to SOA governance makes the most sense. Determine the key levers that drive the business case (for example, is it savings through code reuse? lower maintenance costs?), and develop metrics to track those levers. Implement processes and tools (for example, an SOA governance registry and/or repository) to help aggressively measure performance and enforce best practices.
In general, these five steps are applicable to IT in good economic times as well as in bad. However, in a time of recession, following these principles ensures that critical IT initiatives such as SOA don't get thrown out with the proverbial bathwater. In addition, although the principles stay constant, restrained budgets necessitate a highly pragmatic approach-one that is focused on shorter planning cycles, incremental investment and aggressive measurement of success metrics.
Ross Mason is CTO and co-founder of MuleSource. Prior to founding MuleSource, Ross was CEO of SymphonySoft Limited, a EU-based company providing services and support for large-scale integration projects. Previously, Ross was lead architect for RaboBank and played a key role in developing one of the first large-scale ESB implementations in 2002. Ross has also worked with NatWest Bank, Credit Suisse and UBS.
Ross founded the open-source Mule project in 2003. Frustrated by integration "donkey work," Ross set out to create a new platform that emphasized ease of development and reuse of components. He started the Mule project to bring a modern approach, one of assembly rather than repetitive coding, to developers worldwide. Ross holds a BS (Hons) in computer science from the University of Bristolin Bristol, U.K.He can be reached at [email protected].