SOA Proves Its Worth: Now More Popular and Adopted Than Ever

Loraine Lawson

Did you know there were 882 SOA-related patents last year — way more than were filed at the top of SOA’s hype cycle?

Neither did I. But it turns out, that’s a huge jump from 2006-2009, when SOA seemed to be at the top of its hype cycle and on the lips of every vendor and trade journalist (guilty).

Philip Stander recently revisited SOA, pointing out it’s being reborn in the wave of cloud computing and SaaS. He also looked at Google search hits for service-oriented architecture as compared to other mainstream ICTs (information and communication technologies) and found a sharp increase in sites publishing SOA-related material since 2008.

His conclusion: Service-oriented architecture is more relevant now than ever.

“So, looking beyond hype and ‘opinion pieces’, significant research and development has been extended during the past decade with early adopters probably embarking in Research and Development projects early in the first decade of the millennium,” he writes. “This empirical analysis provides a more reliable measure of the perceived value of SOA by the broad ICT innovation community.”

SOA has even settled in at academia, with schools promoting and publishing papers about its value. Stander points out a search for “SOA University course” brought back 800,000 results, and that the University of Queensland and Carnegie Mellon University both offer courses in SOA.

There are a number of reasons for SOA’s success, but earlier failures may have been because too many organizations tried to push top-down SOA, Stander writes. He and his colleagues at GlobeTOM, a South Africa-based systems integrator and product development company, contend that SOA must evolve from the bottom-up:

SOA is about gradually transforming your present IT assets into a Service Repository asset. With this approach, your assets gradually become your service repository and its underlying business processes that may leverage other finer-grained or atomic business services. It is our view that the disillusionment that culminated in statements that SOA is dead originated from large enterprises that wrongfully believed SOA to be the silver bullet that will magically rectify highly fragmented and broken IT infrastructures with a major top-down approach.

SOA adoption is one of the areas GlobeTOM specializes in — along with, oddly enough, golf booking technology. That’s not to downplay what he’s saying about SOA, much of which I agree with, but it’s worth noting.

Of course, he also notes other reasons for SOA’s newfound success, including its ability to deliver on agility, using business process management (BPM) as a foundation for SOA, and SOA’s essential role in cloud computing and SaaS.

You might also want to explore the potential of using SOA with an API strategy. The New York Times shared its own success with this approach several years ago, but as more companies adopt an API strategy, it’s worth revisiting the topic now.

Stander reminds us that SOA still has value, and has actually delivered on much of its promise:

  • Reuse and agility, resulting in a quicker time-to-market for new services and solutions
  • Consolidation of silos and better business alignment for IT
  • Reducing costs while increasing the competitive advantage for the business

Now that we’re years into SOA and it’s matured, it’s worth revisiting — even if you believe SOA failed your organization — to see what’s worked and what hasn’t, because, as the evidence shows, service-oriented architecture isn’t going away anytime soon.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Sep 5, 2012 3:44 PM Chris Haddad Chris Haddad  says:
Including a Service Store within your SOA tooling will improve SOA success. Many development teams publish services, yet struggle to create a service architecture that is widely shared, re-used, and adopted across internal development teams. SOA governance programs often fall far short of encouraging consumer adoption, tracking service consumption, and illustrating business value. With API management and a Service Store, teams can separate implementation from interface, promote services, and increase service adoption and re-use. Reply
Sep 26, 2012 7:01 AM Hugh Carroll Hugh Carroll  says:
Timely post Lorraine. At Vordel we are seeing folks extending their SOA deployments to mobile and cloud environments via an API layer. The use of Enterprise APIs to expose on-premise applications to Cloud and Mobile environments is creating great validation for the services oriented approach to business and IT infrastructure of the past 5-8years. Our customers are using the API server to manage, secure and deliver these APIs. Reply
Jan 16, 2013 8:28 PM Philip Stander Philip Stander  says:
Hi Lorraine, Thanks for the reference to my article and views. Just out of interest our golf booking technology has a SOA centre an third parties access the services in the public cloud and various golf portals use these services under a SaaS model. Regards, Philip Stander Reply
Jan 16, 2013 10:28 PM Philip Stander Philip Stander  says:
Hi Lorraine, Thank you for the post and positive reference to our SOA article. Interestingly, our golf booking technology that you commented on was a SOA adoption experiment (using SOA as an application architecture paradigm) that turned into a viable technology and we expose services in the public cloud used by partners under a SaaS model. Sites using our booking SOA service are and But I do understand why you found this business interest a bit misplaced at surface value... Regards, Philip Reply
Jan 30, 2014 1:10 PM chris chris  says:
Both top-down and bottom-up can succeed, but the cultural fit is a critical success factor. Big (top-down) SOA initiatives focus on enterprise governance processes, enterprise-wide re-use, and portfolio consolidation. Achieving these big goals requires structurally changing design-time processes and overcoming significant cultural bias that lead to inhibiting design, accounting, control, and operational ramifications. Traditional Big SOA initiatives can succeed, but only if top-level organizational support (e.g. C-level) overcomes organizational inertia and project teams bridge silos and operate as one team. A Small (bottom-up) SOA approach implements SOA principles on a project-by-project basis. This approach incurs less risk, but produces a smaller return. Typically there’s limited coordination across projects, and Small SOA doesn’t require as much cultural and political unrest. Using this process, the organization can slowly build a portfolio of services, but with limited coordination, the services are less likely to be reusable. More insight on the top-down and bottoms-up dynamics can be viewed at: Reply

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