A few years ago, Gartner predicted that by 2011, 25% of business software will be delivered via Software-as-a-Service (SaaS). While we have yet to see what impact the worldwide economic recession will have on that timeframe, one thing remains true – for mid-market companies taking an enterprise-wide approach to their business operations, SaaS will be an important delivery model. With such momentum in the SaaS market, has service-oriented architecture (SOA) technology become obsolete, or will it?
Imagine you are a mid-market manufacturing company with an on-premise ERP solution and the desire to expand your software investment to include solutions for customer relationship management (CRM) and enterprise asset management (EAM). Rather than host the solutions on-premise, you decide to take advantage of SaaS offerings for their uptime, data backups, escrow and more. But you are not fully capitalizing on the benefits of the software if the CRM, EAM and ERP solutions each operate in a vacuum.
There are different goals for SOA, below some fundamental ones:
- The adoption of a new architectural style where business functions operate independently, are flexible and can be deployed/upgraded without disruption
- The introduction of a business management platform where aggregated information for reporting, business intelligence and decisions can be done
- Centrally defined business processes with execution and monitoring reflecting the deployment model (On-Premise vs. SaaS)
- Interoperability of solutions throughout the supply chain
Without SOA, each of your new applications would continue to deliver their primary function but you have some issues to address:
- How do you monitor orders that are received and fulfilled?
- Can you send sales orders from your SaaS solution to your ERP and get an acknowledgement with the status of the order (Cloud-To-Enterprise interoperability)?
- Does your equipment maintenance schedule interfere with important production needs?
- How do you manage information for reporting and decisions?
- How do you manage your supply chain going through different SaaS solutions (Cloud-To-Cloud interoperability)?
With SOA, you have the answer to each of those questions. Your CRM and EAM solutions feed information into your ERP, and that system kicks necessary information back. For example, when you take an order into the CRM, the ERP lets you know how much inventory is on hand, or if production must increase to meet demand.
Further, if your EAM system wants to shut down assembly machines for routine maintenance, but a large, rush order comes through, your ERP can trigger an alert to hold off on the maintenance so that customer service isn’t compromised. An integrated system provides the reporting and analytics that lets you make well-informed decisions quickly and efficiently, greatly enhancing your business.
So, the truth is that SaaS is not making SOA irrelevant, it is instead making SOA critical. Mid-market companies can make great gains with new capabilities and functionality from extended software deployment – either on-premise or SaaS. However, without the integrated, enterprise-wide approach that SOA delivers, profits and productivity gains will be left on the table – and who can afford that?