The principles of SOA in the real world, part one

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We will dedicate the next few entries to try to underpin the idea of what SOA is and what it implies in the ICT sector. To do this, we will use a couple of examples from the real world, where we will see how the basic principles of the SOA strategy are already present in our life in a very natural way, for much longer than you think. Keep in mind that ICTs are very young and, although we all have learned the speed at which they advance, its history is really short. We intend to emphasize in a more graphic way, the extraordinary importance of SOA in the history of ICTs, and the exceptional progress its adoption will bring to public and private organizations around the world.

Let’s go.

We are at home, a good winter weekend, it is cold and it rains. We feel like staying home. For example, watching a good movie. We need a screen, if posible, high definition. We need audio, if possible digital. We need an HD video player. All right. Well, that’s it. The most obvious option would be to connect these three systems together and we already have it.

The available screen has a single HDMI input for high definition video signal, and a coaxial output for digital audio. The video player we have has fiber optic audio output and component video output. And there are two quite old speakers, and the amplifier that came with them that receives the audio only through standard RCA connectors.

What adapters do I need to integrate my information systems

 

In order to watch the movie we have to get a component video adapter to HDMI. In order to listen to the audio we have to achieve a fiber optic adapter to standard RCA. The quality of the image will not be the best, and the audio quality will not be ideal either. But well, more or less, we can see the movie.

A little later we feel like listening to music. We just bought U2’s latest album and we want to hear it with digital quality. We need a digital audio player, and also speakers with digital quality, although we already have the old ones. Great. We connect these systems and enjoy.

The player has standard RCA output and another coaxial output for digital audio. So, to be able to share the speakers we can connect to the amplifier an adapter that allows two RCA audio inputs of two different devices. The music will sound good, but it will not have digital quality. It is not exactly what we are looking for but it can be good enough. We could use the coaxial output of the music player but our speakers do not have coaxial input so we settle for RCA audio. And we would not complain, because we are being able to reuse the same speakers for our movie system and our stereo. Good savings, isn’t it?.

Any other day, it’s time for a videogames session with the kids. It’s a good thing to have a video game console on hand for a fun time. We need a screen, some speakers for the audio output, and the videogame console of course. So we connect all three systems and play.

While setting the videogame session, we find that the console has S-video video output. The audio output uses optical fiber. We already had a screen but only have HDMI input. And the speakers only supported RCA input for audio. So we have to put two adapters: one from S-video to HDMI and another from optical fiber to RCA. This way the kids can spend a funny Sunday afternoon.

Not bad, right? We have reused screen and speakers, and we only had to buy and connect five adapters. It is true that we do not achieve the objectives of quality in image and sound (high definition and digital sound), and we have to connect and disconnect adapters and cables according to what we want to do, but we have to be content. After all, the available budget is very limited.

A few months later, the videogame console has become obsolete. There is a brand new one, more powerful, faster and with better games, and the boys have to play with it, of course. Well, we have to replace it. The new videogame console comes with a coaxial audio output, rather than the optical output of the old console. The video output is HDMI, so it looks like we can connect it directly to the HD screen, but that will mean getting rid of the S-video to HDMI adapter, which cost some money. For the audio we have a problem, because we do not have adapters from coax to RCA. The one we had is being used by the music system. We will have to get another coaxial adapter to RCA for the audio of the new console, and we will retire the adapter that we were using for the audio of the old console, from optical fiber to RCA. In total the change costs us, in addition to the new console, which of course is not precisely cheap, a new adapter and stop using two recently purchased adapters.

A short time later we need to acquire a media center and an apple TV. The second has clear specifications: HDMI video output and optical fiber audio output. Should we be thinking of more adapters … or is it worth changing the speakers? But then, what do I do with all the adapters I bought? Do I give away those investments?

There are several options for media centers. And we find ourselves in the store, in the media center section, comparing specifications, prices, and trying to estimate what it will cost us to integrate it into our home system … do I have adapters? do I need more? Is any of the ones I have ok?

What more changes will I need? What more expenses will be involved? What expenses will be a waste of money in a few months?

When the integration strategy is focused on the short term, investments are not as efficient as they seem

 

One good day we receive the visit of our front door neighbor, the one with which we compete to have the best in video and audio system. We have often felt the powerful sound of his films, the clarity of the sound of his music, the laughter and fun of his game sessions, and we are suffering dire straits to maintain a decent level in that competition. Our neighbor sees us worried and sees what we have mounted at home. And with no words, he invites us into his house.

In his living room, we find a large, elegant device in the center of its installation. On top of it is a state-of-the-art, huge, ultra-high-definition screen. Surrounding the room has slender and elegant sound columns. On one side, on the floor, there is a kind of wooden box with the appearance of a speaker, the size of a stool. We can also see a Blue Ray 3D player, a multimedia center, a tdt recorder, and two videogame consoles. He immediately clarifies that one is used by children, because it is more childish and has more games for them, and the other one is used by him, with his friends, for more serious games, more appropriate for adults.

Another detail grabs our attention: not a cable in sight. Practically nothing. A little closer we appreciate that all the wiring is at the back side of the central device. We see digital audio cables, both coaxial and optical, two of each at least. We see HDMI cables, professional audio cables, an antenna cable, … but we also notice that many more cables would fit, there are still available connectors.

Our neighbor looks at us, points at that device, and says, “This is what you need.”

 

And when we say that it would be too expensive, he explains more or less the following:

– “Indeed the investment needed at the beginning, to have a professional amplifier like this, may seem too high. It’s a lot more expensive than the two or three adapters you think you need right now. But later on, it’s all advantages and savings.

This amplifier you see here, enables me to:

  • interconnect any audio, video, multimedia content in general; all I need to do is verify that this device is compatible with any of the standard connections that this amplifier has.
  • I avoid connecting the different devices to each other; that is very expensive and reduces quality. Adapters everywhere, that every time I change a device stop serving me, why spending that money? That is indeed spent. This is a full-fledged investment.
  • If a new console comes out, better than this one I have for the kids, I just have to connect it to the amplifier. These devices come prepared to interconnect with virtually any audio and video standard. I unplug the old one, and plug in the new one. Ready. I disregard the screen, the speakers … that is solved by the amplifier. He acts as a multi adapter.
  • also, I have a single configuration screen to control. From here I control the audio quality, the input signal of the screen, the audio that I carry through the speakers, etc.
  • If I want to change the speakers for better ones, I just change them, and that’s it. There are no additional costs to the device itself that I want to incorporate.
  • If I want to incorporate new devices into my system I just have to connect them to my amplifier, using the right standard connection: RCA, component video, hdmi, s-video, scart, S-PDIF coaxial, TOSLink, I do not care. I have connection points available on my amplifier. I select the input signal I want and the output signal, and enjoy.

In the end, compared to the expense you carry in your system, I guarantee that I am saving a lot of money in the long-term, and I always cover my audio and video quality needs, all my multimedia entertainment needs are fully covered, and improvements and incorporations are not at all a problem: disconnect and connect, so fast. Nothing else. And I do not care what I’m going to need tomorrow. Whatever it is, my amplifier takes care of it.

Believe me: the day I bought this amp, it was the best investment I ever made. And I’m happy every day. Thanks to it, I have a home system that is integrated, decoupled, scalable, standard, maintainable, economically viable and efficient, covering all my needs and objectives.”

 

When he sees our face, he asks: “hey, and how is that you have mounted that mess of devices and cables that you have in your house?”.

And then, we answer something like this:

– “Well, you see, I’ve been buying the appliances that were recommended by the vendors who attended me. The first console came out and I was assured that it was the best, I had S-video and optical fiber connection for the audio, which was the best sound quality I was going to find … and then when I saw that the connections did not fit, I went back and they told me that I needed those adapters, and I bought them. And the same with the screen, and the video player, and the music player, and the speakers …”

A correct integration strategy should be long-term, to guarantee the scalability and sustainability of the information ecosystem

 

And our neighbor will close the conversation with something like this:

 

– “I see. You should not be guided by the sellers. They will try to sell you what they need to sell for their business, but they will hardly walk in your shoes, or look at the whole of your needs. They go home and continue trying to sell to the next customer who enters the shop. But it’s you who face your system, and the problems you have, do affect you, and not them. For them, for most marketers, your problems are new opportunities to sell you things.

 

What you should do is to start thinking about what you really need, define what you need and raise your eyesight a bit, to anticipate a little to what will come, to the needs that may arise later. And try to assemble a flexible, scalable system, which is then easily modifiable and expandable. And when you go to the vendor you do not have to ask him, you have to tell him that you need a console that has optical or coaxial output for audio and HDMI or SCART video output. Because first, at home, you have noticed that these are the standard connections that you have available, and therefore you are not worth anything that does not meet your specifications. And the sellers should care about offering you what you need, what meets your well defined specifications.

 

It is a matter of taking the reins.”

 

If you can see the analogy clearly, you are understanding well some of the key SOA concepts. If not, surely it’s my fault 🙂 but do not despair, I threaten to keep trying.

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