Sidney Hill, Jr.: We saw the value of the enterprise service bus a mile away

Anyone who fancies themselves a journalist relishes the thought of being first to uncover some major news, or spot a trend before it becomes a mass movement. That's why I smiled when I saw an Aberdeen Group report documenting the value of a service-oriented architecture (SOA) infrastructure. The report, released in July, is based on an 18-month analysis of 400 companies using some form of an SOA.
By Sidney Hill, Jr., executive editor September 1, 2007

Anyone who fancies themselves a journalist relishes the thought of being first to uncover some major news, or spot a trend before it becomes a mass movement.

That’s why I smiled when I saw an Aberdeen Group report documenting the value of a service-oriented architecture (SOA) infrastructure.

The report, released in July, is based on an 18-month analysis of 400 companies using some form of an SOA. The major finding: companies that build a true SOA infrastructure reap much greater business value from their investment than those that simply deploy a loose collection of services.

Why did this news make me smile? Because this is something that Manufacturing Business Technology recognized—and began reporting on—several years ago.

In fact, the title of the Aberdeen report— SOA Middleware Takes the Lead: Picking up Where Web Services Leaves Off —mirrors a story that ran in this magazine more than two years ago.

As the Aberdeen reports notes, a true SOA requires certain infrastructure components, chief among them some type of middleware. A common name for an SOA middleware layer is an enterprise services bus—or ESB. As the messaging layer of an SOA, the ESB translates information created in disparate applications to a neutral format, and then routes those messages to their intended destinations.

In a true SOA infrastructure, an ESB is linked to a services repository—a place where all services developed for use within the enterprise are accessible for use in creating new business processes.

The MBT archives contain articles about ESBs as early as May 2006. In January 2004, we published a story about Cooper Tire & Rubber building a Web services library—what today would be known as a repository. That library houses application components that interact to track locations of the cast iron molds from which the company’s tires are made. Before adopting a services-based tracking method, time spent searching for molds was a serious bottleneck in Cooper Tire’s manufacturing process.

Having solved that problem, Cooper Tire began exploring other areas of the business where it could use the same services, which is one of the chief benefits of creating a true SOA infrastructure.

“The bottom-line business value from Web services is in building a foundation of services that can be easily and effectively reused,” an IT consultant who helped construct the Cooper Tire services library told MBT . He also said such a foundation allows for “quick, cost-effective implementation of any new projects.” The recent Aberdeen report proves him right.

According to Aberdeen, 100 percent of companies in its study that built full SOA infrastructures have seen reductions in application development costs. Of those companies, 72 percent saw application maintenance costs decline, and 89 percent say users are reporting greater satisfaction with the service they get from the IT department.

The likely reason for the last metric is that SOA infrastructures give IT departments the agility required to respond quickly to new business requirements.

The satisfaction level at MBT is high as well, because we know we were among the first to help our readers understand the value of an SOA infrastructure.