New York — The promise of service-oriented architecture (SOA) is a world where everything interoperates seamlessly, pieces of applications are reused endlessly and development of new systems is quick, cheap and easy. But despite some high-profile deployments and the spread of Web services, when it comes to financial firms doing serious business with each other, SOA is being held back by competing standards and varying implementations.

Wall Street firms use SOA internally to integrate applications, create employee portals that bridge silos, and build Web sites for customers that bring in information and tools from a variety of applications, both in-house and from third-party providers. The problem is that service-oriented architectures are composed of a complex—and ever-evolving—set of protocols. While the low-level standards are well developed, tested and universally used, they are more appropriate for the transfer of information like market data than clients' sensitive transactions.

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