Wanted: SOA expertise

As if the technology aspects of building a service-oriented architecture environment aren't challenging enough, there's another obstacle those with SOA aspirations have to face: lack of expertise.

The shortage of SOA understanding often leaves enterprise IT executives tapping into vendor knowledge. "Talk to as many vendors as you can afford to," says Joseph Gaus, enterprise architect at Midland, Mich., Dow Corning. "As you talk to more and more vendors, you start to figure out what they're really solving, what they're good at."

Gaus knows vendors aren't the most unbiased sources, but in his own search for an SOA run-time monitoring tool, they've helped him zero in on the technical challenges and identify the features Dow Corning needs. "I've made it very clear that what I'm doing is learning about their products, learning about the challenges their products address, and I'm not committing to anything," Gaus says.

Vendor relationships also have helped educate Rich Colton, application integration manager at Washington Group International in Boise, Idaho. Colton sits on Oracle's customer advisory board for SOA, which gives him an opportunity not only to interact with IT peers but also to preview and potentially influence product development directions.

"It takes a little bit of commitment to be part of the customer advisory board. You have to commit to some meetings, you have to commit to reviewing technology as it becomes available," Colton says. "But if you're willing to do that, there are benefits."

Getting involved with standards bodies is another way to keep up with SOA developments, adds Jorge Mercado, lead architect in the software architecture group at MedicAlert in Turlock, Calif. The healthcare informatics company is involved with standards bodies including the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards and Health Level Seven. "We're pretty active in the standards community," Mercado says.

-Ann Bednarz

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