SOA Forum: CTO Reality Check


Chad Dickerson is moderating a panel called "CTO Reality Check." The panelists are:

  • Usman Rabbani, Pfizer
  • Rich Erickson, Technical Consultant, AT&T
  • Marc Saffer, CIO, The Columbia House Company

What's different about SOA from CORBA, DCOM, OOP, etc.? Global scale and infrastructure (HTTP) makes a difference. Web services are much simpler than CORBA. Loose coupling as well as platform and language independence make Web services more interoperable.

AT&T Strategy: create inventory of services within different domains (say, sales and marketing). Build a target services roadmap from the result and then start implementing the services on the roadmap. Many of the consultants they've brought in have said AT&T was ahead of them, so they've taken to doing much of it themselves.

Pfizer (in a decentralized IT environment) uses a pool of funds to incent groups to build out strategic services. One example was an approval workflow system that overlays each of the approval systems in the company. Now people have one interface for all of their approvals, including batch approvals. This app served as a catalyst for other applications as people saw the way it worked. Other applications that need to integrate approvals also use the system as a common interface.

Columbia House has created services for address normalization and recommendations. These services are used by the Web site, the IVR system, and the sales agents.

If you've got an SOA and you can't identify the services, you've got problems. Yet, some people try to claim what they're doing is SOA without being able to articulate the services. One of the key artifacts of the architecture is a services inventory including, taxonomy, descriptions, and names.

Columbia House started with an enterprise architecture team that developed a set of principles for their Web services strategy. The enterprise architecture team and its work have been built into the governance. They brought in BEA to give them some primers (since they were a Weblogic customer) and have hired consultants to help get them off the ground.

AT&T set up an integration competency center that provides data to AT&T developers on toolkit functionality and interoperability. Not many companies have the resources to do that.

Early implementation led to some problems. One example: exception handling is needed in the orchestration layer. Success can be a problem. Columbia House's pricing engine was so useful that the service became saturated.