The bright, shiny promise of a service-oriented architecture (SOA) is a happy world of applications that work together seamlessly, complete information visibility across the enterprise and provide a responsive environment that evolves quickly and easily as the IT infrastructure changes. But the reality is that even the most state-of-the-art SOA design must accommodate legacy applications, arcane but still-critical data sources and the fast-growing adoption by business users of low-cost, easy-to-adopt software as a service (SaaS) applications. Suddenly, the clear vision of rapidly implementing SOA and living in a simple, elegant world begins to cloud. The Sudoku you thought would be so straightforward to solve suddenly reveals its five-star difficulty rating - “Beware, very challenging!” All you need, though, is the right strategy to make all the answers fall into place.

The average corporation in the U.S. has dozens of disparate application systems, and some Global 2000 companies have thousands. The number and complexity of these systems will only continue to grow, and solutions for integration will have to accommodate an increasingly volatile and rapidly evolving IT infrastructure. Business processes can also undergo radical changes based on new business models, product offerings and M&As. When you factor in the explosion of connectivity needs outside the firewall (business to business, to consumers, to government), the need for extremely agile integration technology becomes obvious. A successful integration project can help organizations understand their markets and customers better, replace or upgrade applications in a nondisruptive manner, provide better business intelligence, interface with partners and add value to all existing applications by finding new ways to leverage vital systems and data.

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