Are You Using or Considering a Services Oriented Architecture? - Emerson Automation Experts

Are You Using or Considering a Services Oriented Architecture?

One of the innovations taking hold in the Information Technology (IT) community is services oriented architecture (SOA). As stated by the SOA entry in Wikipedia:

There is no widely-agreed upon definition of service-oriented architecture other than its literal translation that it is an architecture that relies on service-orientation as its fundamental design principle. Service-orientation describes an architecture that uses loosely coupled services to support the requirements of business processes and users. Resources on a network in a SOA environment are made available as independent services that can be accessed without knowledge of their underlying platform implementation.

To understand better the state and needs of the adoption of SOA in process manufacturing, the ARC Advisory Group is conducting a short 25-question survey, SOA for Manufacturers and Owner/Operators. The survey:

is designed for, and should be taken by, end users, owner/operators, etc. in process and discrete industries – as well as those with similar needs in other industries, such as utilities – with knowledge of their company’s interest, goals, and experience with Web services and SOA.

As with ARC’s other surveys, your participation earns a free copy of the results when they become available. This can help your organization better learn what other manufacturers are doing and possibly help advance your efforts.

I bring all this to your attention because I am also keenly interested in the problems you see SOA addressing and the business results you are seeking to achieve. It can have impact all the way to your process instrumentation and devices in your manufacturing processes.

If your organization is applying or investigating the application of SOA, consider investing a few minutes of your time taking the survey.

Posted Monday, July 9th, 2007 under Miscellaneous.


  1. SOA works only as long as your asset base isn’t expected to last very long –as is typically the case with IT.
    However, that’s not such a typical situation in most process industries. As such, unless you’re operating or managing an expendable infrastructure, I don’t see the value of using SOA. It would tend to focus on the service and leave the far more expensive infrastructure to rot.
    This is why utility privitization efforts so often go awry.

  2. While it is true that a plant’s asset service life is measured in decades and an IT’s asset life is considered to be 3-5 years, a modern control system (read: DeltaV) is capable of taking advantage of technology changes and add new capability through software and firmware upgrades. That fact coupled with the understanding that a Service Oriented Architecture is intended to create a federated layer of services between a control system proper and the MES and ERP systems means a well-executed SOA will extend the service life of the plant’s expensive hardware assets even further.
    More importantly, with a well defined set of SOA services (i.e. schema definitions and interfaces) that provide the means to a _valuable_ integrated solution, process manufacturers can begin to automate their business processes at a measured pace of their choosing. Through observation it is possible to find and execute smaller projects that quickly provide a return on time invested and create momentum for further integration. Additionally, each of the major pieces (MES, ERP, and Control System) can be migrated forward at different times because SOA – by definition – is loosely coupled.

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