SOS for IT Jobs? Save Yourself With SOA

Worried about your IT job going overseas? Experts have some advice.

Worried that your IT job is going offshore? Trends suggest you might be. Gartner predicts that by 2010, 25 percent of traditional U.S. IT jobs will be done in emerging countries, up from roughly 5 percent today.

If your job is at risk, you need to determine what to do about it. Veteran programmers have some advice: Take stock of your skills and learn new ones that aren't as vulnerable to programming displacements.

One area to look at is Service Oriented Architecture. At least for now, SOA skillsets are higher in the development food chain, experts say.

It's not that SOA is new; you can find books on the topic going back at least 10 years. But the shift toward SOA is accelerating. And now, the betting is that projects focused on emerging architectures won't be first to be shipped off.

So what is SOA ? For starters, it's not Web services . But the two are often intertwined because SOA underpins Web services to support a variety of messaging among applications across different platforms.

SOA means getting beyond the usual object-oriented thinking in programming, as Microsoft's Ron Jacobs, product manager, platform architecture, has said in Web seminars. SOA differs from the more general client-server model in its emphasis on loose coupling between software components and its use of separately standing interfaces.

SOA means thinking of a set of independently running services, loosely bound to each other via event driven messages. Call it the aggregation of components satisfying a business driver.

Jacobs' group just released a code update and explanations of its ShadowFax project. It helps explain how SOA is a reusable framework, consisting of full source code and reference documentation, as well as a reference implementation consisting of several use cases.

The site builds on the development trend, which for some time now has been to move away from application silos with tightly coupled structures.

Greg Coticchia, CEO of LogicLibrary, which provides collaborative software development Asset (SDA) management tools for development, and service-oriented architecture projects, advises developers to first make sure they understand their company's or their company's client's business. From there, they can work on upgrading to SOA with an eye toward improving time-to-market for new applications.

Since the economy began to rebound, the move toward SOA has been fairly dramatic, he says. A lot of it has to do with Web services projects, which are still in pilot projects while working groups wrestle over security specs and single sign-on protocols.

That's one reason SOA is gaining steam, Coticchia says, thanks to the challenges involved with externalizing Web services interfaces to third parties and other big businesses.

Coticchia would know. LogicLibrary's technology maps relationships between software development assets (SDAs) and the business processes they support to let enterprises manage and reuse those assets throughout the complete application lifecycle.

But reusing code and maintaining best practices libraries for application development is just one aspect of SOA thinking.

In a larger sense, SOA means the hype about business agility is more than a marketing construct. Given the mind-boggling complexities in heterogenous environments (and that's no slight to the Java world) development teams need to build on architectures that can support swift rollouts of new applications.

Plenty of developers are already working to get their heads around SOA, as blogger Sam Gentile noted in December. His money quote: "I must confess SOA to be one of those paradigm shifts - it really does mean the death of objects at least as we know them."

LogicLibrary's message: If programming jobs are increasingly heading offshore, try to focus on high-level architecture. Overall, the goal should be to improve your value to the organization.

Experts' advice to younger programmers coming into the business is to get your brains around SOA as fast as you can. As Forrester's Mike Gilpin adds, SOA skills won't be a silver bullet for offshoring concerns. Indeed, the distributed nature of the architecture is what global sourcing is all about. But for now, it appears those skillsets are safe.

Erin Joyce is executive editor of

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