Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Enterprise Information and SOA

Almost every Information Technology implementation and IT Architecture includes Information and Data. SOA is not an exception.

The following sections will highlight some important aspects relating SOA to Enterprise Information.

SOA and Enterprise Information Integration (EII)

I recently read an Aberdeen Group Survey published in February 2008. The survey title is Enterprise Information Integration: The Foundation for Business Success and Transformation.

While reading it I almost thought I am reading about SOA:

  • Abstraction

EII is an integration architecture abstracting the data source.

  • Agility and Business Responsiveness

This Abstraction Layer is Business Responsiveness and IT Agility enabler.

  • Black Box - Data Consumers are not aware of the information sources, Information infrastructure (e.g. databases) and location (e.g. specific instance of a database or a specific file) could be changed without changing the consumer interface.
  • EII federated data approach is replacing a Monolithic data model based on consolidating data relating to an application in a dedicated database or set of tables (the Monolithic approach analogy is not perfect usually data is less monolithic than application functionality).
  • Reuse

One of EII's implementation goals is increasing Data Reuse ratio, very similar to the concept of Service Reuse in SOA.

  • Messaging

Messaging or data transfer is a core mechanism.

It should be noted that there is no free lunch: The price of Abstraction both for SOA and EII is overhead. The EII approach is gradually replacing the monolithic approach of a Consolidated Database. Due to high Data growth rate and growing data Complexity the choice is mainly between these two approaches: Consolidate data in one or few databases in order to simplify the architecture or Abstract Data Integration model. In addition to lack of Agility, disadvantages of the consolidation model could be time and cost of the consolidation process and possibly Performance issues due to database contention. Notice that these approaches are not mutual exclusive: applying EII does not necessarily imply no data consolidation. It should also be noted, that the consolidation model is restricted to structured information supported by current databases mechanisms unlike EII model which may support less structured data sources.

Services can be classified to four categories: New, Wrapped, Composite and Data. The forth service type is an overlap between EII and SOA: Data Services which are part of the SOA architecture and implemented by using EII.

SOA and Information Architecture

One of the Best Practices for SOA implementation is to begin with defining the Data Architecture. Information Services are part of the overall SOA architecture. Data sources outside the enterprise boundaries are the origin of some of the information retrieved or updated by these services.

According to a recent Gartner Research Note (Predicts 2008: Emerging Trends Force a Clearer and Deeper Focus on Enterprise Architecture) 80% of SOA design issues are Enterprise Information Architecture (EIA) issues. This finding is based on feedback from successful SOA implementations. Another prediction is that by 2010 most Enterprise Architecture teams will spend on EIA as much time as they currently spend on Technical Architecture. Architecture teams will have to address new information challenges derived from the new Data Architecture (e.g. Governance, Security etc.). Inability to address them due to lack of formal processes for Information Architecture will be the root of SOA initiatives failures.

SOA and Metadata

Metadata or Data on Data is an important element of SOA architecture and implementation. Metadata describes the components of SOA architecture and the underlying IT assets. SOA messages include both data and the meaning of the data i.e. metadata. The information in metadata is the key for Visibility of SOA abstractions.

SOA and Master Data Management (MDM)

MDM could be a prerequisite for SOA in order to preserve a reasonable level of data consistency and data quality. The Federated model behind EII requires one source for representing single information "truth". Mastering the MDM which maps and describes major data sources serves as this single source. Lack of adequate MDM implementation may result in ineffective Data Services and other SOA services (Functionality related Services also rely on information processed by them).

In summary, information and information on information plays an important part in SOA architecture design and in SOA implementation.

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