Crazy SOA costs grow sane over time

People are realizing that SOA is cost effective; it just operates on a different model.

A year ago, people were gasping at the price tags associated with large-scale service-oriented-architecture projects. Initial projects that cost US$50,000 per stage could run up a big total tab fast as companies invested in training, developers' time to code and new technology.

"Budgeting is still a challenge," but today people are realizing that SOA is cost effective; it just operates on a different model, says Ed Cobb, a vice president at BEA Systems. "There are upfront costs that have benefit in the long run. If you look at SOA purely from a single project, it seems that some initial costs wouldn't have been incurred if you'd done it the traditional way," he says.

The test comes with the second project, when a company should start seeing a payoff in the speed of development. At that point, he says, "customers begin to see how they are going to achieve [SOA's] touted savings."

Savings aren't the only reason for SOA, Cobb notes. Flexibility is equally important. "With SOA, companies are able to make changes quickly that would otherwise be very difficult," he says.

Avis Budget Group knows well how each successive project that reuses services costs less. It created an SOA to link to its travel channel partners. Now it can bring up partners for under US$3,000 per link compared to about US$50,000 per link when it launched the SOA more than two years ago (see "Avis drives harder with SOA").

Such vendors as BEA, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle have done a lot to reduce initial project costs, too. Each has built massive libraries of ready-made service components that need little to no customizing, says Susan Eustis, president of WinterGreen Research.

When companies adopt an efficient SOA -- such as the widely supported service-component architecture or Microsoft's Windows Communication Foundation -- building an application becomes little more than assembling existing services from the menu of choices. Of course, it is more complicated than that, but not much.

"Object-oriented programming helped people write apps much more efficiently. This is the next logical step of turning those components into services that are easier used," Eustis says. "If we get [access control, discoverability and governance right], enterprise IT becomes enormously more effective. We'll improve productivity by quantum leaps."

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