Adoption of Service Oriented Architecture for Enterprise Systems in Education: Recommended Practices

IMS recently released a white paper with the un-catchy but informative title “Adoption of Service Oriented Architecture for Enterprise Systems in Education: Recommended Practices“. While it is fair to say that no publication on SOA can avoid someone taking issue with something, this paper does a pretty good job of meeting its aims of providing those in the (mostly post-compulsory) education technology audience with relevant information on the reasons why they should at least consider service orientation and how they might go about moving in that direction.

Education has many unique challenges associated with integrating business and academic processes and technologies.  This Recommended Practices for Education on Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) from IMS Global Learning Consortium filters the information on the current state of SOA concepts, tools and practices and provides guidance on when adoption of SOA is appropriate in Education to overcome some of its core challenges.” (from IMS)

We (CETIS) produced a complementary look at the service-orientation back in March 2009, which we will update in 2010, with a similarly un-catchy but informative (we hope) title “Technology Change in Higher and Further Education – a service oriented approach“.


SOA and TOGAF: A Good Fit?

As both service orientation and Enterprise Architecture are current themes that JISC considers to be strategically valuable, I thought the recent article from ZapThink on the topic “SOA and TOGAF: A Good Fit?” is very timely.

To whet your appetite, their conclusion includes:

“How would you decide whether to use TOGAF ADM or not for your SOA initiative? If you have already adopted a SOA approach, and its working for you, then the ADM won’t necessarily add value for you in the short term. However it won’t do any harm to evaluate your approach against the ADM. You may find some valuable lessons to be learned from TOGAF. However, if you haven’t yet adopted a SOA approach, or if you are experiencing problems with your approach, then the ADM is certainly worth considering.”

Both service-orientation and architecture are explored in “Technology Change in Higher and Further Education – a service oriented approach“, where members of CETIS and guest authors present their “takes” in the context of Higher and Further Education. This work includes many other references to work supported by JISC and various perspectives from people whose thinking we think is important.

SOA and Spaghetti Bolognese

What does eating Spaghetti Bolognese and service-orienting your IT systems have in common? (Please indulge me in a little frivolity.)

  • You won’t find many restaurants selling Bolognese Sauce that you can combine with a bowl of spaghetti you made yourself and Parmesan from Tesco.
  • Factorising out a service is like pulling one strand of spaghetti from the bowl; you know it must be possible but everything is just so tangled.
  • When you do get a strand separated it is tempting to eat it in a way that makes a mess.
  • It can’t be done elegantly.
  • Chopping it up small works but isn’t very clever.

Spaghetti code” is already a well-used programmers’ term.

Web Oriented SOA?

Over the years, I’ve often thought Zapthink have produced some clear analysis. I don’t necessarily agree with all points but their analysis has tried to cut through the hype on many occasions.

If you are interested in practical service oriented approaches rather than necessarily buying into the set of assumptions around the term “Service Oriented Architecture” then their recent Zapflash on “WOA…” is worth a read. Don’t dwell too much on the title and conclusion its the discursive meat that is worth eating.