Real-world SOA confers real benefits

Von Steve Fox

Time to get practical. Infoworld has been focusing on SOA and its predecessor, Web services, for nigh on five years. But with the current issue, the rubber meets the road -- or more specifically, the business meets the code -- as we examine how SOA projects are assembled and how they get going.

Our cover story, ? SOA Meets the Real World?, follows five undertakings that are transforming organizations and making businesses more agile. Emblematic of many successful SOA endeavors, our first case study, the New England Healthcare EDI Network, started with a basic business problem: Data exchange among Massachusetts? insurers, hospitals, doctors, and the state?s own health-care systems relied on an expensive, inefficient patchwork of paper, electronic transactions, and people power. In short, a poster child for wasted motion.

The solution was ambitious, employing standard interfaces to connect a vast array of services from health-care entities across the state. Ultimately, project leader John Halamka, M.D., CIO of Harvard Medical School, and his team fashioned a kind of ?health care bus? in the cloud, cost-effectively coupling services to create, for the first time, a cross-organization workflow of electronic documents.

Halamka so impressed us that we tapped him as keynote speaker for our SOA Executive Forum in New York on May 17. The event itself is a bicoastal affair, with Toby Redshaw, Motorola?s corporate vice president of IT strategy, keynoting the West Cost event in San Jose on May 5.

Like this week?s cover story, the InfoWorld SOA Executive Forum emphasizes the from-the-trenches experience and wisdom of SOA practitioners. We like to think of it as a peer-to-peer conference where the peers just happen to be a dream team of IT pros with the richest assortment of SOA war stories and technical chops you?ll find anywhere.

To deliver the most of a model that marries business and technology, we?ve divided the conference into parallel tracks. The technical track, led by our own Jon Udell, homes in on the SOA fabric -- what it looks like and how it should be constructed. The business track focuses on the most effective ways to map business processes to services. The two tracks converge at day?s end with a panel of CTOs -- led by InfoWorld CTO Chad Dickerson -- discussing the difficulties of implementing SOA in a world in which standards are not yet fully defined.

If you can?t attend in person, feel free to follow the action via blog, as Udell, Dickerson, and the Tech Watch team weigh in with frequent highlights from the panels and presentations. I?m hoping you make it, either live or courtesy of the blogosphere. See you there.

Steve Fox is editor in chief of InfoWorld