Darmstadt, Germany — A new global survey suggests that although enterprise adoption of service-oriented architecture (SOA) has “crossed the chasm,” overall maturity of adoption is moderate, and the state of governance practices is still considered lacking.

The Best Practices for SOA Governance User Survey, conducted in April/May 2008 by Software AG, a provider of business infrastructure software, targeted the vendor’s customers from 14 industry sectors including insurance, financial services, energy, life sciences, manufacturing and more. The majority of the 176 survey respondents hailed from enterprises with revenue greater than $1 billion.

More than 90% of respondents indicated some level of SOA planning underway within their organizations, and more than half of all enterprises represented already have implemented successful SOA-based projects and/or an enterprisewide SOA. Respondents also reported considerable satisfaction with their progress to date. Less than 10% were explicitly unhappy with their results so far as satisfaction with SOA beat dissatisfaction by a four-to-one margin. Among those reporting having an enterprisewide SOA in place, approximately two-thirds said that they were satisfied with their results to date with the remainder reporting that it was “too early to tell.”

According to Ron Schmelzer, co-founding partner of Zapthink, an SOA education consultancy, taking an iterative approach seems to be the most popular strategy among companies implementing SOA initiatives, chiefly because of the platform’s inherent complexity.

“SOA approaches to enterprise architecture address long-term issues of integration in environments of continued heterogeneity, application development in the face of continuous change, governance, management, and quality in environments of continuous complexity, increasing reuse and reducing redundancy across multiple IT initiatives, and organizational and methodology approaches that favor iteration over monolithic, waterfall-style approaches to development,” Schmelzer says.

Users overwhelming view governance as being a key component to creating sustainable SOA implementations at the enterprise level, with more than 90% reporting that it was either critically (54%) or moderately important, according to survey results. Despite this importance, nearly two-thirds rate their own SOA governance practices as either “non-existent” or “insufficient.” Among the best practices identified by the survey was the importance of having a SOA Competency Center or Center of Excellence in place to build cross-organizational support for these initiatives. Somewhat surprisingly, the survey also found that senior IT management appeared to be missing from these discussions with less than 20% enjoying active support from the office of the CIO as just one example.

“With organizations just beginning to embrace SOA governance, a significant void exists in terms of well-established and widely disseminated best practices,” says Björn Brauel, VP and deputy CTO, Software AG. “The purpose of this survey was to overcome these gaps by determining what approaches are being used in the field to successfully implement SOA governance. These results show that it’s never too early to start in terms of governance, with a holistic, lifecycle approach to managing services most often needed. Reflecting the business-critical nature of most implementations, the need to consistently meet service-level agreements for performance was cited as the most common driver for SOA governance. Findings such as these can be invaluable to users struggling to define their own enterprises’ SOA governance strategy.”

Among the survey’s other findings were:

•    Interest in SOA was widespread as only one industry ou of 14 reported that mo e than 15% of its respondents had “no plans to adopt SOA”

•    Top drivers for SOA adoption were a desire to improve business agility, simplify integration and support business process management initiatives

•    SOA has yet to expand far beyond the firewall as only a small minority (19.5%) report having exposed more than one-quarter of their existing services externally

•    There was a strong correlation between SOA maturity and governance adoption with more than 80% of enterprises having a fully implemented SOA in place calling their governance practices “mature” or “adequate” versus 33% overall

•    Enterprises with the most advanced adoption of SOA governance were the least likely to identify governance as a set of technologies alone

•    Full lifecycle governance was deemed critical with 70% of respondents concluding that each stage of the lifecycle—design, run and change-time governance—were of equal importance

•    Over half believe that governance should be implemented before the first service is created

•    SOAP and WSDL were described as the most important standards for SOA, followed by UDDI

•    WSDLs and XML schemas were the most commonly stored repository items, followed by additional documentation and associated policies

•    In terms of key inhibitors to more widespread adoption, users identified the lack of needed skills, the complexity of their current IT environments, the lack of business support and the difficulty in quantify ROI as key challenges

"The good news is that 91% recognize that governance is either critically or moderately important to their SOA strategy,” says Miko Matsumura, VP and deputy CTO, Software AG. “The challenge is that only 7% rate their governance practices as mature. Enterprises have taken the first step in admitting that there is a problem. Now they can take the additional steps needed to address the issues highlighted by the report, such as overwhelming IT complexity, lack of business buy-in and a genuine skills shortage."

Sources: Software AG, Zapthink

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