Amidst all the SOA-related activity that is currently underway, there still remains a significant amount of confusion as to what exactly constitutes a service-oriented architecture. Some qualify an SOA project by the fact that Web services technologies are being used, while others classify SOA as a Web-centric variation of object-oriented design.
What has become more clear than the actual meaning of SOA is the strategic vision that has emerged around it. This vision is comprised of a set of goals and benefits that most stakeholders fully expect to see realized when they support and commit to SOA initiatives. However, because the “SOA” acronym has been used to brand products, technologies, and even projects without a clear understanding of its meaning, many of these expectations have been and will continue to remain unfulfilled. For example, the common (and dangerous) assumption that a solution is service-oriented solely because it uses Web services has led to much disappointment.
There is, in fact, a wealth of information out there that communicates the meaning of SOA in detail. The only problem is that this information is fragmented – distributed across marketing literature, technology specifications, media reports, and independent research efforts. While there is no one recognized definition of SOA, there is a baseline of concepts and principles that exists among all of the organizations, platforms, and initiatives that have influenced and continue to shape the SOA movement. For any IT professional, project team, or organization interested in moving ahead with SOA, this baseline perspective is extremely important to understand because it reflects a current, industry-level, and vendor-agnostic representation of what SOA is in the real world.