Enterprise Software

Cisco practices what it preaches, crosses boundaries with SOA

Cisco Systems apparently is doing a great job of practicing what it preaches when it comes to doing business over the network with its recently launched "Commerce Transformation" initiative.

The network systems provider — which promotes SOA and SONA (service oriented network architecture) — recently launched a "Commerce Transformation" initiative, based on SOA principles, that enabled the company to create a solid architectural and technological foundation for both existing and future application development. And the company is getting measurable results. Cisco more than tripled transactions to $4 billion in a year via its SOA-based partner application.

The initiative netted Cisco top honors as the most compelling case study for 2009, as determined in a competition held by the SOA Consortium and CIO Magazine. Brenda Michelson, a colleague over at ebizQ and a judge for the case-study competition, provides a detailed description of the Cisco Systems SOA program.

The first project, the Partner Deal Registration (PDR) application, provided outside partners secure access to "Cisco pricing concessions and programs, leveraging reusable enterprise-class business services such as corporate pricing, configuration, and partner profiles that were coupled with flexible business rules for price lists, contractual discounts, and promotions, among others."

Part of the challenge was bringing together more than 400 diverse applications based on various acquisitions, Brenda relates. "Consequently, several core business processes such as product ordering and pricing were becoming inconsistent, monolithic, complex, and inflexible to change. A lack of comprehensive end-to-end monitoring was also a concern."

Benefits seen as a result of the program included improved process agility, productivity, detail tracking, and growth in the number of partners, deals, and bookings. "Six months after initial project rollout, the system had more than 9,000 partner users worldwide and had processed 37,000 deals worth $1.2 billion. Nearly a year later in June 2009, there were close to 20,000 partner users, and 56,000 deals worth $3.92 billion net had been processed."

Cisco had a very comprehensive governance structure for its SOA, led by cross-functional councils comprising business and IT leaders who were tasked with the planning and execution of an integrated capabilities roadmap, Brenda relates. Once the roadmap was finalized, an SOA project team consisting of an enterprise architecture team, business architects, and IT architects evaluated the use of SOA. The EA team, which also acted as an SOA center of excellence, built a framework for the identification, creation, reuse, governance, and monitoring of services and composite applications.

Brenda outlined some of the lessons learned. Some are well-accepted operating procedures across the industry, such as SOA governance, being about the business versus technology, and employing both a top-down and bottom-up approach. Interestingly, one of the lessons is that business process management (BPM) needs to be part of the SOA equation. Also, the Cisco folks point out, "when you are a large company, most of the benefits will come from volume, so target simple things (services) with high volume."

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