We cannot foresee the full potential of service-oriented architecture (SOA) any more than Henry Ford could have foreseen the scale of today's automobile industry when the first Model-T car rolled off the production line nearly 100 years ago. But there are signs that it will be equally far-reaching. If so, this will be because of the same force that made Ford rich: the open market.

SOA is an architectural style in which software applications are organized as a set of loosely coupled services. It is being adopted by many enterprises today because it results in agile IT systems that can be more easily adapted in response to change. But it has another capability that could be far more important. SOA allows an enterprise to use externally provided services and to choose between similar services provided by different suppliers. It enables market competition.

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