SOA, Rhymes with Noah
by Leslie Ellis // August 25 2008
And now for a quick dip into the bubbling soup of acronyms within the software world, starting at the top. “SOA.” People say it as a word — rhymes with Noah.
“SOA” stands for “Service Oriented Architecture.” It’s the Big Picture for the software efforts of big companies. It’s especially enticing to companies wishing to untangle themselves from heavy, monolithic, single-vendor software systems.
Like the billing system, for instance. The historic grumble about cable billing systems goes like this: Ask for a change. Wait 18 months. Find a million dollars to pay for it.
That’s why you tend to hear of SOA when you’re with IT people. Here’s a usage example from a recent batch of notes: “We took a look at it and said, we need a SOA architecture, to let us to get time to market and productivity enhancements.”
Try this for fun: With a straight, calm face, suggest to anyone who works in cable IT that they’ll need to change out the billing system. Then try to find a way to share in the utter hilarity of the idea.
Here’s what SOA is: It’s tight, efficient little blocks of code, theoretically re-usable, with consistent passageways between them.
In practice, SOA is seeing that 60% of your care calls about digital video result in sending a refresh command to the box. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to let customers initiate the refresh themselves, by pressing seven on their phone, or asking online?
Pre-SOA, pinging a set-top required a care agent to initiate that activity, by accessing the headend components of what were then General Instrument and Scientific-Atlanta systems.
With SOA, pinging a set-top means abstracting that function into a chunk of code, then embedding that chunk of code into the other chunks of code that might need it — the IVR system for the phone; the self-care portal for the online query.
The catch: Those “theoretically re-usable” chunks of code. Say a “service,” as the chunks of code are called, moves into the domain of another “service” needing it. To the web care portal, in this example.
Oops. It only covers 80% of what the web portal needs. The other 20% either comes from an add-on, or, just as often, a total re-write.
Most of the larger cable MSOs are at least waist-deep in SOA, so it’s where your IT friends are headed. May they prosper.
This column originally appeared in the Platforms section of Multichannel News.