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Service-oriented architecture (SOA) is a flexible set of design principles used during the phases of systems development and integration in computing. A system based on a SOA will package functionality as a suite of interoperable services that can be used within multiple, separate systems from several business domains. SOA also generally provides a way for consumers of services, such as web-based applications, to be aware of available SOA-based services. For example, several disparate departments within a company may develop and deploy SOA services in different implementation languages; their respective clients will benefit from a well understood, well defined interface to access them. XML is commonly used for interfacing with SOA services, though this is not required. (Excerpt from Wikipedia article: Service oriented architecture)
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