A Practical Guide to Federal Service Oriented Architecture

CIO Council


The world is changing at an accelerating rate and the federal government needs to keep pace. Broad-based change is always difficult, but the federal government is plagued by a variety of inhibitors to change, including enterprise verses mission organizational orientation; bureaucratic culture; program aligned funding processes; budgetary cycles and processes that do not facilitate agility or reuse; and a very large and diverse embedded technology base. Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) promises to help agencies rapidly reconfigure their business and more easily position IT resources to serve it. Improved business agility – through the sharing and reuse of infrastructure, services, information, and solutions - is a key component of any Federal Enterprise Architecture whose need will become increasingly critical in the future.

These benefits have been promised in past waves of IT innovation. This time, they are enabled by the concurrent maturation of Internet-based IT standards and best practices and the adoption of those interoperable standards as a common fabric by stakeholders – Citizens, Government, Industry. This document is focused on packaging and presenting those techniques, standards and practices in a manner which fits within the norms and processes of the Federal IT community; allowing for consistent and evolutionary adoption and use, and eventually shared realization of its benefits.

SOA encompasses multiple dimensions which must work in concert for it to be successful. Adopting service-based technologies alone will not enable agencies to achieve the benefits associated with SOA. For the purposes of this document, we accept the definition of a service as defined by OASIS as:

“The means by which the needs of a consumer are brought together with the capabilities of a provider.”

Appropriately, this definition is fairly broad and includes more than technical services. As the name suggests, SOA involves architecture. This Practical Guide employs an industry standard definition of SOA (OASIS):

“Service Oriented Architecture is a paradigm for organizing and utilizing distributed capabilities that may be under the control of different ownership domains.”

The conventional concept of SOA does not include Event Driven Architecture (EDA), which is an essential component to a fully functional SOA environment. However, for the purposes of this document, the definition of SOA includes all of the functionality normally associated with EDA.

As described in this Guide, SOA has organizational, governance, business process, structural, and technical dimensions that must be managed and synchronized. This Practical Guide has been written to support Federal chief architects and CIOs in their efforts to adopt SOA best practices to further their organization’s mission, meet increasingly demanding compliance requirements, introduce more agility into their architecture, and optimize their IT architectures.

(Executive Summary)