SOA, or Service Oriented Architecture, is a technology that makes it possible to link a variety of resources on a network for use when and as needed. The use of SOA is sometimes more flexible in how resources are connected and utilized simultaneously than in other types of system architecture designs. Service Oriented Architecture can be especially helpful when larger numbers of users are connected with the system, especially if there are remote users that must have access to specific applications residing on the network.
The concept of SOA did not originate with the advent of computer systems. Because the underlying premise of the design has to do with the interaction of independent resources on a demand basis, the basic model has been employed for decades with defining the infrastructure of a business. The model may be applied to the connections existing between departments that function independent of one another, or even autonomous functions that take place within a single department. In all cases, the structure established makes it possible to obtain data from any number of independent sources when and as needed.
With software applications, SOA provides the means of leveraging the components of various programs in a manner that makes communication between applications simple and easy. The flexibility of the SOA lends itself readily to systems where there is a need to continually upgrade applications or to expand the network in order to meet additional functions as well as users. As an example, Service Oriented Architecture works very well in systems designed for use in the health care industry, making it possible to adapt systems to handle new tasks and functions with relative ease.
While SOA can be quick and provide easy connectivity to a wide range of program components, it is possible to control the flexibility of the architecture. This gives system engineers the ability to make a particular SOA as scalable and quick as desired, or implement any number of security measures that monitor access, the type of access allotted to each user in the network, and what modules within each program can be accessed simultaneously. In short, the Service Oriented Architecture can be configured to the exact specifications of the Information Technology team and function exactly the way the business needs it to function.
Implementing SOA does not necessarily mean that the entire existing network and resident program modules must be changed. There are a number of SOA tools that will easily graft into pre-existing networks without changing one element of the current functionality. What the Service Oriented Architecture will do is allow programs that previously were not able to draw on resources related to other programs to combine functions and make certain tasks easier to accomplish. For instance, a sales and marketing database may be able to interact with word processing programs to create a mass mailing of promotional letters by combining information contained in a text template, the profiles established in the marketing database, and any independent address books residing on the network.