What’s the difference between Enterprise Architecture & SOA?

 

The growing importance of Enterprise Architecture has cast a new light of scrutiny on SOA (Service Oriented Architecture). Businesses are increasingly finding themselves utilizing both approaches to organization and planning these days, often at the same time. Naturally, given that EA and SOA are so closely related in terms of scope, it can get a little bit confusing when it comes to defining their respective roles. Enterprise Architecture and SOA

In a nutshell; Enterprise Architecture tends to deal with the entire scope, or umbrella of concerns, facing a business. Basically, with EA, the goal is to align strategies and use of resources with that of long-term vision (and perhaps the overall mission of the organization itself). What’s interesting about EA is that it can encapsulate not just analysis of a business’ operating structure and layout, but also the use of IT resources as well. An Enterprise Architect’s job is to use all the tools available to conduct a thorough analysis of the entire business process, afterwards of course, modifications can be made based on the findings.

SOA (or Service-Oriented Architecture) on the other hand, is used in various ways. For example, SOA might be used to establish software design protocols, enable communications / services, linking together resources / services, and simply maintaining a more useful IT infrastructure in general. A Service-Oriented Architect might spend most of their time orchestrating the layout of a cloud computing system, or perhaps putting standards in place which help to ensure that current components are functional (as well as anything new which might be added at any time).

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Understandably, EA and SOA tend to overlap in certain places; which can cause problems if not properly addressed. For instance, EA governance will cover the business, application, technology and informational architectures, while SOA is chiefly concerned with IT and the technological aspects of a business. Given Enterprise Architecture’s all-encompassing influence, problems can arise if / when the goals and strategies of SOA are in direct opposition (with those of EA). The bottom line is that those involved in EA need to always remain in constant contact (if possible) with the individuals working in SOA. Most Service-Oriented Architects spend their time dealing with software-related issues and don’t usually have the larger goals or problems of the business on their mind; it is up to the Enterprise Architect to provide direction in most cases.

The basic relationship between EA and SOA is very similar to the connection between a general contractor (who helps to design a structure and perhaps physically build it) and electricians / plumbers. In other words, the Enterprise Architect has to contemplate the basic design from the standpoint of strength, functionality and placement of resources, while the Service-Oriented Architect’s job is to bring specific services (utilities) online and ensure their operation. In most cases, SOA is used to build a better IT organization, while EA is much broader and covers virtually all levels / layers of the business process and approach to technology in general.

Interestingly enough (and according to some new stats gathered by various research groups), it appears that there might not be enough EA or SOA specialists to go around. Despite the fact that businesses are coming to rely heavily on the skills of Enterprise as well as Service-Oriented Architects, we are experiencing a shortfall when it comes to actual placement. Needless to say, this presents a monumental opportunity for prospective individuals (both inside and outside of the IT community). Understandably, those who have a more extensive background in IT as well as business will be more suited toward fulfilling the role of an Enterprise Architect. Likewise, individuals that only understand and deal with IT issues might be better suited to SOA.

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So, what’s the difference between EA and SOA? Once again, it’s the scope and use of these very similar architectures which truly define them. Enterprise Architecture is like the OS which organizes, drives everything, and provides stability to the entire machine. SOA on the other hand, is akin to a browser OS, which can be used to deliver and manage new services and apps. Both systems of control are needed in order to ensure that a business operation is fundamentally sound from an operational standpoint as well as a technological one.

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