What Is Service-Oriented Architecture? (Plus Its Benefits)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 28 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Software designers often strive to develop simple systems for users to engage with and for programmers to update. Service-oriented architecture can assist in achieving these objectives by enhancing the user experience and providing autonomous functionality. Learning more about this software architectural style can help determine if it's the best solution for your software design tasks. In this article, we define service-oriented architecture, explain how it works, discuss its components and outline the benefits of applying it in software design.

What is service-oriented architecture?

Service-oriented architecture (SOA) offers an approach to making software packages reusable and interoperable using service interfaces. Services employ standard interface specifications and architectural patterns to integrate new applications quickly. This relieves the application developer of tasks such as redeveloping or duplicating existing functionality or knowing how to connect or offer compatibility with existing functions.

Each service in an SOA contains the code and data necessary to perform an entire, discrete business operation, such as verifying a customer's credit or processing mortgage applications. The service interfaces provide loose coupling so a developer can apply the features with little understanding of the underlying service implementation. An interface is a contract between the service provider and the consumer.

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How does SOA work?

It enables applications and services to communicate with one another via standardised protocols. This implies that a service can integrate and interact with an application independent of its programming language or platform. The communication between services, components and applications is possible via a simple object access protocol (SOAP), in which a service receives an information request through SOAP and conveys the results in a decipherable extensible mark-up language (XML) document.

The SOA uses an XML document and a graphical user interface (GUI) to transfer data between services and applications. An XML document is simply a text file capable of storing, transmitting, reconstructing and translating data for human and machine comprehension. A graphical user interface (GUI) is an application that allows people to connect with devices using many interactive techniques, such as a cursor to click on an interface button.

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SOA components

SOA comprises the following key components:

An application interface

An application interface is a framework for developers to communicate with other apps and execute user requests. SOA aims to create an interface that uses detection methods to connect users with relevant applications and tools. An interface is successful when it enables developers to design applications that use existing services. SOA reduces reliance on other platforms and technologies using loose coupling across user interfaces.

Services

Services are the software components that constitute the foundation of SOA in software design. Clients rely on services to execute their business procedures. Using the application interface, a client may access the services of a service provider.

In SOA, there are two types of services:

  • Business services: These services conduct important operations necessary to automate business processes, and in addition, SOA can integrate services to meet various business requirements. For example, a company owner might request an application to track the shipment of items.

  • Infrastructure services: Infrastructure services may not provide value on their own, but they can supply the functionality that a company requires to operate effectively. For example, it's challenging for an authentication procedure to exist in isolation, yet it may serve to validate an end user's identity.

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Security

Security is a necessary component of SOA. Since security comes from various sources, maintaining it may be challenging. To protect the safety of important data, each service within this system requires proper security.

Developers may employ several security solutions to generate audit trails and access limits. In addition, they can monitor those who initiate requests and guarantee that the systems are safe from any breach.

Process layer

The process or orchestration layer is responsible for facilitating the integration of new applications and services into pre-existing software. It enhances convenience by merging services into dependable business activities. Providers can construct a single application that delivers customers a range of features by combining, configuring and coordinating services.

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Management

SOA's loose coupling requires effective management to ensure that different processes work well. Managers can monitor systems to verify that they're operating correctly and detect potential issues early. Service providers can also employ operators to oversee the functioning of a system and anticipate any problems.

Business activity monitoring

SOA's process layer gives providers access to individual processes and can check the status of various applications. It's a useful function, but it might be challenging for you to examine multiple aspects of a business simultaneously. Monitoring business activity allows providers to access important information about several processes concurrently.

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Operational data score (ODS)

ODS offers real-time views of various services and enables access to layers that include user interfaces, enabling service providers to use these resources readily. This functionality in SOA is helpful as it eliminates the requirement for retrieving data, such as product catalogues or customer records, from each back-end service. Instead, providers may use any service to receive the information they need.

Stakeholders

The two central stakeholders in SOA are end users and service providers. Typically, both parties sign a contract outlining the nature and conditions of their partnership and detailing what they anticipate from the service. In addition, service providers can develop specialised services to ensure that their systems work correctly. Consumers using the services can give helpful feedback to the service providers. They can also make special requests to help improve business processes.

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Benefits of SOA

Below are some benefits of incorporating SOA into your software design:

  • Service reusability: Building an application using SOA entails combining a collection of loosely coupled independent modules. Consequently, the developers can reuse services in many applications regardless of their connection with other devices.

  • Increased reliability: SOA-based systems are more dependable because small, independent services are simpler to test and debug than large volumes of code.

  • Improved availability and scalability: Multiple instances of the same service can operate concurrently on separate servers, enhancing the service's scalability and availability.

  • Easy maintainability: Because every service is a separate entity, developers can easily upgrade or maintain them without affecting other services. It makes it simple to manage large and sophisticated applications.

  • Location independence: Services often appear in a directory so that consumers can find them easily. This strategy enables a service to change its location at any time and ensures the user can always find it by searching a directory.

  • Increased productivity: Developers can use existing legacy systems and add new features without starting from scratch, enhancing developer productivity while significantly lowering the cost of designing an application.

  • Improved software quality: The possibility of duplicate functionality is low because developers can reuse services. This can reduce mistakes due to inconsistent data and increase code quality.

  • Platform independence: SOA simplifies the development of an elaborate product by integrating products from several vendors, regardless of platform or technology.

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Tips for using SOA

Here are some tips for incorporating SOA into your software design:

Allow for scalability

As you continue to develop your software, you may add features that require the integration of additional services. You can build service-oriented systems to quickly scale your software environments to incorporate these changes. For example, you can design a user environment with icons that identify your current services, such as a calendar, clock or stopwatch.

As you expand and add more functions, you can design new icons inside the current environment so users can access the latest features without learning to navigate a new user environment.

Look for an SOA partner

The design of service-oriented software systems can be complex and may require a significant rewrite of current code. As a result, integrating SOA might be easier if you work with a partner business with expertise in this field. Furthermore, investing in such collaborations may help establish applications that may be less expensive to upgrade.

Use third-party services

Many organisations develop software that can readily integrate with SOA to enhance their use. For example, multiple organisations make it simple to link credit cards or other forms of payment for various transactions. Using other entities to provide user services may reduce your software design requirements, enabling you to develop more versatile software systems.

Start small

You may begin implementing SOA in certain circumstances by rearranging small components of your code inside a particular functionality of your current software system. For example, a smooth administrative experience might not be as important as establishing a seamless user experience in a central area of your software application, such as processing credit card payments. Once these necessary components are service-oriented, rebuilding the overall software system may be more manageable.

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