Companies across the world are embracing service-oriented architecture (SOA), as they strive to develop flexible, adaptable IT systems, streamline business processes, and improve business efficiency, agility and effectiveness. Existing investments such as legacy systems are leveraged more effectively, new technologies can be deployed more easily, new business opportunities can be seized more quickly and application silos serving discrete parts of the business can be brought together to ensure a higher level of customer service and greater internal efficiency.
But these changes have fundamentally changed the nature of the IT transaction underpinning business operations, and unless action is taken this shift threatens to disrupt operations and damage the availability and service levels of the business applications, not to mention impacting overall IT governance. In adopting SOA, at production time companies may find they have grabbed a tiger by the tail.
In an SOA environment, the concept of a transaction has evolved from a program running in a single system and serving one particular business need to a distributed collection of shared components and services, potentially spread across the entire enterprise and beyond into the external value chain. The SOA ecosystem provides a sophisticated set of facilities to enable these transactions to operate in this heterogeneous environment, but in so doing the operational part of the ecosystem becomes an essential part of the transaction and therefore an important element affecting its performance.
On top of this, the extended nature of the SOA-based transaction – crossing technology, platform, location and even corporate boundaries – brings a real governance headache. As the execution path of the transaction becomes more complex, areas such as compliance and auditability become major issues. And finally, companies adopting SOA are increasingly looking for more value from their IT investments through a much closer alignment of these resources and their operations with business strategy and goals.
IT transaction monitoring is an important weapon in the battle to maintain the operational service levels that IT supplies to the business. It helps to maintain a high degree of business application availability while ensuring that performance remains within required tolerance levels. When a problem does occur, it provides tooling to enable problems to be quickly identified and resolved, minimizing the business impact. But traditional transaction monitoring, designed in the days of application silos where the transaction generally executed in one place, struggles to cope with the changes demanded by SOA-based transactions, rendering it insufficient as a measure to preserve service levels for business applications. In addition, it has no mechanisms at all to deal with the ensuing governance issues or to improve correlation of technical occurrences with business objectives.
The SOA-based transaction is radically different than of old, and the need to maintain business application service levels and adequate governance measures, while improving the alignment of IT and business goals, demands a new class of software tool – SOA Transaction Management.