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Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA)
The Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) strategy allows businesses and organizations to offer their products and services to customers and trading partners using a standards-based integration protocol (Lam & Shankararaman, 2007). SOA is a business structure that supports communication between services. It establishes the way, in which the two entities interact. It also enables one entity to perform a specific task on behalf of another (Ebbers, Barrus, Bonazebi, Daly, & Lee, 2008). Therefore, SOA allows service interaction between entities or programs. The service interaction is usually defined by a descriptive language known to the two entities or programs. Web Services depend on SOA for delivery. SOA uses Extensible Markup Language (XML) to deliver data and information to its products and services’ consumers (Josuttis, 2007). One of the SOA characteristics is that the integration is loosely coupled which simplifies the integration (Josuttis, 2007).
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SOA is widely used in business organizations. It is commonly employed for online shopping. For instance, a customer looks at a company’s catalog online and selects some items she or he would like to buy. In this process, the customer interacts with different services, the communication of which is managed by Web services that are enabled by the SOA framework (Josuttis, 2007). Ordering, inquiry, order tracking, and delivery are the services that enable the entire process. Their interaction is made successful by SOA.
Ways in which SOA Reduces the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO)
Organizations all over the world face immense pressure from customers and business partners. They demand a platform, from which they can get all information about services or products, make and follow up their orders without too many efforts. To meet these challenges, business organizations need integrated SOA that facilitates fast, efficient, and quality services that are essential for business survival in the fast-changing business environment (Lam & Shankararaman, 2007). IT systems are constantly updated to meet the demands of the organization. This part evaluates how SOA reduces the total cost of ownership (TCO). SOA brings the desired change in an organization’s structure and culture thus, enabling organizations to accomplish their business goals and objectives. TCO is the monetary approximation needed to help buyers and owners in establishing the direct and indirect cost of the product, service, or system (Lam & Shankararaman, 2007).
SOA increases the revenue of organizations. The use of this system enables an organization to make many sales thanks to customer satisfaction. An increase in sales leads to an increase in revenue and, consequently, a decrease in costs due to economies of scale. Any strategies that an organization adopts must affect its cash flow positively (Lam & Shankararaman, 2007). SOA reduces costs, increases revenue, and enables businesses to gain a competitive advantage.
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SOA also increases business flexibility and agility (Josuttis, 2007). IT is a vital aspect for business organizations. Organizations that do not develop their technology are bound to fail in the current century. SOA is built in such a way that it can be integrated with many different components (Josuttis, 2007). It is possible to achieve high flexibility in business operations with the use of SOA. It also facilitates the process of solving real business problems faced by customers and partners (Josuttis, 2007). The SOA services are flexible and can be re-used on extensive applications (Josuttis, 2007). It can be used with old and newly acquired assets and services thus reducing the TCW. Moreover, SOA ensures the integration of customers and partners in a unified manner that improves the organization’s performance (Lam & Shankararaman, 2007).
Nevertheless, SOA improves operational efficiency. Implementing SOA successfully improves the operations of the organization. This, in turn, reduces the TCO. Only a few funds are devoted to the improvement of different independent sections of the organization. Useful data and information are stored together for easy retrieval. Information on the customer orders, stock list, service demand, payment, and delivery can be accessed at just a click. Thus, TCO is greatly reduced when a company implements SOA Web services.
SOA reduces TCO by reducing the time it takes a product to reach the market (Lam & Shankararaman, 2007). This is a key aspect for future market growth. It allows the new products to reach target customers in the shortest time possible. The current world demands delivery within the shortest possible time frames, and organizations can achieve this advantage by implementing the SOA strategy.
The cost of gaining clients or customers and losing them due to poor customer service is costly. SOA increases customer loyalty and retention due to quality customer service and satisfaction. Therefore, it reduces TCO by promoting product development, innovation, and customer-centered communication that prevents the customers from leaving (Ebbers et al., 2008). The costs of acquiring a new customer are reduced by this communication strategy.
SOA also reduces costs by ensuring the system and operation integration. It allows service interaction between entities or programs. The organization cuts down on TCO because, with SOA, there is no need to have other independent vendor-specific programs (Ebbers et al., 2008). SOA promotes the low-cost-in-corporation of the organization’s programs and entities.
Ways in which XML Use Enables Data and Information Exchange between Clients and Servers using Web Services in the SOA Environment
XML is the main information transferor in web services. It enables easier transmission of information between interactions in SOA by encoding the information into a format that is readable (Ebbers et al., 2008). XML is efficient in different organizations because it reduces the cost and time needed for system development (Ebbers et al., 2008). It has the ability to structure, validate, and transform data between various applications in the system (Ebbers et al., 2008). Using XML enables data and information exchange between clients and servers using the Web within the SOA environment. It allows the information and data exchange in the ways discussed below.
XML structures the data in a manner that can be understood by the system. It has inbuilt functionality to arrange information in a format that is readable by different programs and interactions in the system (Ebbers et al., 2008). It formats the information thus making it possible for programs to communicate easily with one another.
Another way in which using XLM enables the data transmission between clients and the server is by optional validation of the data (Ebbers et al., 2008). It provides the possibility to make the information valid/suitable for the whole system. If some data is not applicable in the system, XLM usually makes it applicable and, thus allows effective data and information exchange between the server and clients.
XLM transforms data and information. By doing so, XLM allows independent use of data between different applications (Lam & Shankararaman, 2007). With the use of XLM, it is possible to have data transmitted from the server to specific clients without its being revealed to other clients.
For efficient data and information exchange, XLM has the ability to encode textual information (Lam & Shankararaman, 2007). This ensures that data and information security between the server and clients is highly upheld. Encoding is the process of changing data in a manner that can only be understood by the designated client. XLM and its inbuilt technology have a system to produce vigorous and significant data structures (Lam & Shankararaman, 2007).
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XLM makes it possible for programs to communicate easily with each other (Lam & Shankararaman, 2007). It also enables faster and cheaper business and supplies chain integration. Moreover, XLM in the SOA environment makes it cheaper for an organization to develop the Internet and business models, which improve data transmission between the server and the clients.
Comparison and Contrast of the Loosely Coupled Architecture and a Tightly Coupled Architecture in Terms of TCO, Maintenance, and Implementation Issues
SOA has been applied in a wide range of organizations globally. This is major because it uses loosely coupled architecture, which has many advantages such as lower maintenance and implementation costs among many others. This technology also enables organizations to deal effectively with the challenges they face in communication and IT. SOA enables integration, as well as an independent operation of the programs.
Tightly coupled architecture refers to a group of machines, programs, or applications that are highly dependent on each other (Lam & Shankararaman, 2007). Applications are usually tightly coupled when there is a need to keep them in constant access to the central data storage system (Lam & Shankararaman, 2007). Loosely coupled architecture is used in programs, machines, or applications, which can operate independently of each other (Ebbers et al., 2008). This section compares and contrasts the loosely and tightly coupled architectures.
The tightly coupled architecture has a shared memory, unlike the loosely coupled architecture that has distributed memory (Ebbers et al., 2008). The level of contention and scalability in the tightly coupled architecture is high and low respectively (Ebbers et al., 2008). The case is different in the loosely coupled architecture, where contention and scalability are high and low respectively (Ebbers et al., 2008). The table below summarizes the differences between the two types of architecture.
|Parameters||Tightly coupled architecture||Loosely coupled architecture|
|Memory status||Shared memory||Distributed memory|
|Type of connection network||dynamic||static|
|Flexibility||Low (not reusable)||High (reusable)|
From the table above, it is clear that the loosely coupled architecture has many advantages over the tightly coupled architecture (Ebbers et al., 2008). The maintenance cost for tightly coupled architecture is high as compared to that of the loosely coupled architecture. This is because the former has a high level of conflict or contention among the users. This increases the cost of maintenance since it demands constant monitoring and control. The cost of implementation for the tightly coupled architecture is high as compared to that of the loosely coupled architecture. Moreover, data and information security are low in the tightly coupled architecture as compared to the loosely coupled architecture. Low level of security demands a high level of supervision and control hence, increasing the maintenance costs.
TCO is high in the tightly coupled architecture as compared to the loosely coupled architecture. This is because the tightly coupled architecture is not reusable. Its level of flexibility is low. When a company buys a new asset or application, it is difficult to integrate it with the existing program. This increases the development cost associated with the architecture. The case is different in a loosely coupled architecture, which is highly flexible and reusable. A new asset or application is easily integrated with the system; hence, TCO in the loosely coupled architecture is low.
In terms of power consumption, the tightly coupled architecture is less costly. This is because its level of power consumption is low as compared to the loosely coupled architecture. As a result of the aspect of a continuous link to central data storage, the tightly coupled architecture has a low storage level as compared to the loosely coupled architecture (Ebbers et al., 2008). This aspect makes the loosely coupled architecture more efficient and desirable in business operations.
The similarities between the loosely and tightly coupled architectures are that they both add, omit, and change the data order, names, and structures (Ebbers et al., 2008). However, the loosely coupled architecture is more efficient and effective in the data element coupling as compared to the tightly coupled architecture.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Using a Standard-Based Integration Strategy
The current business environment calls for organizations to adopt a standard-based integration strategy for their infrastructure, systems, and applications (Ebbers et al., 2008). The major reason for the increasing demand for application integration in technology is the need to achieve efficiency and security. Enterprise architecture is made up of different services, systems, and applications that a business organization needs in order to run their day to day activities smoothly (Ebbers et al., 2008). An organization can either have a system developed in-house or it can purchase them from a professional service provider. The technology systems help the organization to manage its financial, supply chain, customer details, and employee information among others.
The standard-based integration strategy increases flexibility in system architecture (Ebbers et al., 2008). It allows new parts to be added, and older ones removed according to the needs of the organization. When the need to change the system arises, it is easy to alter it by simply configuring the applications as desired. It also allows a single service to be re-used by numerous applications (Ebbers et al., 2008). This way, it reduces the cost of developing the system when a new application is to be included.
It also allows for loose coupling between applications in the system (Lam & Shankararaman, 2007). The loose coupling has various advantages such as security and lower TCO. Security improves with the use of a standard-based integration strategy because the system is controlled from a central place. This ensures that data and information are not accessed by unauthorized people. Moreover, a standard-based integration strategy increases the speed and system scalability. Moreover, it reduces the costs of maintenance by eliminating the need for repetitive configurations.
The major disadvantage of integrating these applications is that it makes the process of implementing new and better technological advancement difficult in each section (Ebbers et al., 2008). Sometimes technological advancement may occur in only one area such as supply chain or customer management, for example. If the organization is using a standard-based integration strategy, it becomes difficult to update that specific area. Therefore, a standard-based integration strategy may interfere with the process of quick adaptation to the changing and developing business needs.
Failure in a specific area of the architecture can lead to failure of the whole system. Lastly, a standard-based integration strategy can lead to tailback in accessing services or applications if the system is large.
SOA web services are very common in the current business world. This is because of the advantage and efficiency that comes with the XLM technology and loosely coupled integration it uses. The standard-based integration protocol has given SOA the advantage of being identified as architecture that uses it to offer its trading partners and customers, their products, and services. Through SOA, communication between organizations has been taken to a much-advanced level. SOA has helped organizations to tackle the dynamic changes that are experienced in the world of information and technology. Through it, several organizations have adopted the use of the standard-based integration strategy with regard to their applications, infrastructure, and systems. The achievement of security and efficiency has been the key motivation behind organizations scrambling for the use of SOA. This seems to have paid off as organizations have become much more flexible in their system architecture. The integration of these applications, however, brings about a complicated situation in each implementation of much-advanced technology. In spite of this, the loose coupling abilities put onboard the lower TCO and security among other benefits that are brought about when an organization uses SOA.
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