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Service-oriented architecture (SOA) is an evolution of distributed computing based on the request/reply design paradigm for synchronous and asynchronous applications. An application's business logic or individual functions are modularized and presented as services for consumer/client applications. What's key to these services is their loosely coupled nature; i.e., the service interface is independent of the implementation. Application developers or system integrators can build applications by composing one or more services without knowing the services' underlying implementations. For example, a service can be implemented either in .Net or J2EE, and the application consuming the service can be on a different platform or language.
Service-oriented architectures have the following key characteristics:
The reality in IT enterprises is that infrastructure is heterogeneous across operating systems, applications, system software, and application infrastructure. Some existing applications are used to run current business processes, so starting from scratch to build new infrastructure isn't an option. Enterprises should quickly respond to business changes with agility; leverage existing investments in applications and application infrastructure to address newer business requirements; support new channels of interactions with customers, partners, and suppliers; and feature an architecture that supports organic business. SOA with its loosely coupled nature allows enterprises to plug in new services or upgrade existing services in a granular fashion to address the new business requirements, provides the option to make the services consumable across different channels, and exposes the existing enterprise and legacy applications as services, thereby safeguarding existing IT infrastructure investments.
Learn more about service-oriented architecture in the Java enterprise with these JavaWorld tutorials:
As in Figure 1's example, an enterprise employing SOA could create a supply chain composite application using a set of existing applications that expose the functionality via standard interfaces.
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