SAP recently delivered a new wave of enhancements to its suite of business solutions, but as CNN Money points out, it is using service-oriented architecture (SOA) to address the top customer need of being able to bring new functionality on stream without impacting current workloads.
The point is that many companies use SAP packages to power their businesses, and anything that threatens to disrupt these key operations represents a major source of risk. So the problem becomes – how can you take advantage of new technology advances without jeopardizing your mission-critical operations? The traditional answer is to rely on extensive testing, both of the new function and, more importantly, regression testing to ensure existing workloads continue to function as expected. But the problem is that with large-scale deployments, such as often found with ERP packages like those provided by SAP, this testing cycle has to be so extensive that migration to a new product release can take years.
SOA offers another answer, as SAP has realised. Using a service-oriented approach, it becomes possible to handle migration activities in a piece-by piece mode. New functionality can be deployed, and new applications can take advantage of it, but at the same time these applications can drive functionality in the existing implementation ‘transparently’. Also, as existing applications become ready to exploit the new advances, they can be changed bit by bit rather than lock, stock and barrel.
I expect SOA to become used more and more by package vendors in particular as they strive to address what is often the top user requirement – don’t screw up my current operations.