Similarly, Avnet can continue to let its programming staff use the development environments they know best, such as Java and Microsoft .Net. As long as services have the same interfaces and data models, they can exchange data and results consistently, Valcamp says. “We were not going to drop .Net to do just Java, or vice versa,” he notes. The key to successful heterogeneity, Chapman says, is in the services’ design. Developers need to take the time to ensure they are truly abstracted, with no dependencies based on the flavor of technology.
Calculating the payoff
The SOA approach has also provided measurable benefits for application development, Chapman says, such as a 30 percent more efficient quote-to-order process, with an associated reduction in cycle times for order management to minutes from more than a day. Development time at Avnet was reduced by 45 percent for IT projects using SOA versus those that weren’t.
Some benefits are harder to quantify, because they come from increased business activity, presumably due to the company’s ability to execute faster and more effectively.
Chapman believes, for example, that Avnet boosted its software distribution business from tens of millions in sales to hundreds of millions of dollars by providing EDI links to its customer base over a two-month period. And he says that a new integrated quoting process, implemented as a set of services, reduced one division’s labor usage by 20,000 hours per year — an efficiency gain of 20 percent — and simplified the process for clients, as well.
Chapman says the new order process alone has boosted revenues by more than $200 million without staffing increases. With ROI like that, the pain of transforming architecture is worth it.