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Service Oriented Architecture (SOA)

Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) is an evolution of distributed computing and modular programming. SOAs build applications out of software services. Services are relatively large, inherently unassociated units of functionality, which have no calls to each other embedded in them. They typically implement functionalities most humans would recognize as a service, such as filling out an online application for an account, viewing an online bank statement, or placing an online book or airline ticket order. Instead of services embedding calls to each other in their source code, protocols are defined which describe how one or more services can talk to each other. This architecture then relies on a business process expert to link and sequence services, in a process known as orchestration, to meet a new or existing business system requirement.



The goal of SOA then is to allow fairly large chunks of functionality to be strung together to form ad-hoc applications which are built almost entirely from existing software services. The larger the chunks the fewer the interface points required to implement any given set of functionality. This is at odds with very large chunks of functionality which are not granular enough to be easily reused. Since each interface brings with it some amount of processing overhead, there is a performance consideration in choosing the granularity of services. The great promise of SOA though, is that in this world, the marginal cost of creating the nth application is zero, as all of the software required already exists to satisfy the requirements of other applications. Only orchestration is required to produce a new application.

Service-oriented architecture

A service-oriented architecture (SOA) is a collection of services that communicate with each other, for example, passing data from one service to another or coordinating an activity between one or more services.

Companies have long sought to integrate existing systems in order to implement information technology (IT) support for business processes that cover an entire business value chain. A variety of designs can be used to this end, ranging from rigid point-to-point electronic data interchange (EDI) interactions to Web auctions. By Internet-enabling EDI-based systems, companies can make their IT systems available to internal or external customers, but the interactions are not very flexible and are without a standardized architecture.

In order to better support the connection and sharing of software functionalities, there was a need for a flexible, standardized architecture. SOA is one such architecture which unifies business processes by structuring large applications as an ad-hoc collection of smaller modules called services. These applications can be used by different groups of people both inside and outside the company. The building block services can play one or more of three roles: service provider, service broker, or service requestor. See Web services approach to a service-oriented architecture to learn more about these roles.


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