Service-oriented architecture (SOA) is a standards-based design approach for creating an integrated technology infrastructure capable of rapidly responding to your changing needs.
SOA is not a product; it’s a method of designing systems - in effect, the architectural drawings or blueprint - that directs how information and communications technology (ICT) resources will be integrated with each other. SOA also manages which (and when) services will be available, helping you better align your ICT resources with your institution’s goals.
Microsoft SOA solutions take advantage of the service-orientation capabilities built into the Microsoft Windows platform and complemented by Microsoft technologies for the development, management, and consumption of services. The best way to implement these solutions is with a phased approach and the guidance of a certified Microsoft partner.
Consolidate your ICT resources and optimise their efficiency
You likely have separate applications and databases that capture student information, allocate transportation fleets, and manage food services, among other tasks. With SOA, you can unlock those resources from their application silos to make their respective functions and information available to more people across your institution. Along with reducing the need to have the same information in multiple places (which requires time and effort to keep synchronised), you can improve access to those applications and databases. For instance, when new students enroll, all of their information is entered in one place, via single sign-on (SSO), from any number of devices. The relevant information is automatically populated to all applications that rely on student information, so it’s easier to trigger whatever is necessary to serve those students - from bus route numbers to lunch account balances.
Realise the benefits of SOA
Using SOA can help you:
- Reduce ICT costs. By integrating your existing technology infrastructure and the applications you are already using into a single environment, you can use your existing ICT investments (instead of purchasing an entirely new system) and enjoy easier upgrade processes in the future.
- Make better decisions. Relevant information, such as student assessments or up-to-date budget reports, is easier to find when you provide role-based access through single sing-on from a variety of devices.
- Address your present and future needs. With SOA, your systems and applications become more flexible, so they’re optimised for today’s known demands and still allow for quick modifications to respond to new requirements and opportunities.
- Improve productivity. Facilitating information flow and access allows your people to increase productivity, eliminate time-intensive manual processes, and focus on the most important aspects of their jobs.
A smart approach to SOA
Although SOA has a great deal of promise, it can sometimes be challenging to develop and implement a comprehensive plan that has the necessary buy-in from stakeholders and is not cost prohibitive. Instead of the “rip and replace” approach that some SOA solutions require, we suggest an incremental approach that focuses on your goals, integrates your existing ICT resources, and maximises the return on your SOA investment. This is achieved through a three-phase process:
- Expose. In the first phase, your existing ICT resources (such as legacy systems and line-of-business applications) are made available as services with which you can communicate through standardised messaging formats, such as web services.
- Compose. The goal of the second phase is to enable greater flexibility and agility by allowing you to add or change processes without being constrained by the underlying IT systems and applications. You can achieve this goal by pulling together the services you exposed in the first phase into larger processes or workflows.
- Consume. In the final phase, you develop the dynamic (or composite) applications that consume the underlying services and processes. These applications, based on web technologies (such as portals or AJAX), rich clients, Microsoft Office applications, or mobile devices, are what drive the productivity of your end users.