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Why vendors tout "SOAs"

In the business software market, one of the most common buzzwords is services-oriented architecture, or SOA.

Nearly ever vendor touts the benefits of an SOA to business customers. But those same benefits accrue to tech vendors as well--perhaps even more, according to industry executives.

Here's the basic idea of an SOA: you design your IT systems so that individual "services," or applications, can be reused and combined with others.

The approach is not new. But newer technologies, notably XML and Web services, make SOAs more realistic.

If done right, business customers save money by reusing programs they've already created and installed. Also, once a company uses standard data formats and protocols, in theory, they should spend less time making one system "talk," or share information, with another.

For a software vendor, reuse of existing code can yield a more efficient development process, much the way a server maker can use pre-built components.

The same holds true in the professional services business.

IBM Global Services, for example, is reusing some of its software "assets" in different consulting engagements, said Michael Liebow, vice president of Web services and SOA for IBM Global Services.

This is one way IBM Global Services expects to compete against lower-cost options. "The services business was purely labor based. Now we are moving to asset-based business with a high degree of reuse," said Liebow.

Once again, this idea isn't new. But given the cost benefits vendors stand to gain from the SOA approach, we can expect to be hearing plenty more.