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SOA and Cloud: Mutually exclusive?

Perhaps one of the frequently encountered question for technology architects is: “Now that we have cloud, do we need SOA?” Well, given the vagueness around the terms and the overlaps, this is not unexpected. Through this blog, I wish to propose that SOA and Cloud are in fact complimentary and should not be thought of as mutually exclusive options by technology architects.

The simplest way to explain the complimentarity of Cloud and SOA is to say that Cloud takes it on where SOA finishes its utility. It simply builds on. From that perspective, cloud technologies amplify the utility and effect of SOA for the end users, be it various functions within a company or the end consumer of services.

Contribution of SOA in the SOA-Cloud Nexus

Service Oriented Architecture or SOA enables reuse of legacy applications and builds services which can be used in various settings. It makes technology asset resources available for various end users as logically thought out services. Makes for efficient usage of resources and takes care of legacy issues.

What does Cloud bring on top?

Cloud on top of SOA allows services to be more accessible, because cloud environment is based on services. Therefore, it makes all the benefits that SOA brings about, accessible to various business functions and verticals and then further down to the consumer level. Think, online access of sales data, records and applications ranging from simple calculators which use data from the IT infrastructure to very sophisticated ones – all kinds of mix and match of resources and services is possible by combing SOA and Cloud.

Preparedness for cloud based services

To understand this issue better, it is better to start from the following question: What are the pre-requisites before we think of using cloud based services? The key factors which should be in place are virtualization, reusability of services, governance procedures, security control systems and processes and an understanding of pricing of services as they are consumed over cloud.

Noteworthy is the fact that all of the above are the benefits of using a service oriented architecture. Therefore, no doubt that using cloud and SOA together should certainly work!

So what’s the answer?

Perceptions of SOA being a ‘thing of the past’ exist and there might be reasons for that. The reality however is that cloud amplifies SOA’s impact. And the converse is also true, i.e., having SOA helps deliver better and a wider variety of services using the cloud environment. A case can easily be made that the ROI from cloud can be better and investment recovery can be much faster if SOA is already used in designing the architecture.

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