2011: The Year SOA Made Sense

Loraine Lawson
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There are a lot of obvious choices for the top IT architecture stories of 2011. I suspect most people would rank cloud - private, public and hybrid - neck and neck with Big Data trends as the top IT stories of 2011.

 

But for my money, one of the most interesting stories was a little coming of age tale that's finally starting to show big dividends.

 

To me, 2011 is the year service-oriented architecture - once the most over-hyped, over-discussed and under-practiced trend in IT - quietly came into its own.

There are a couple of reasons for this. First, it stopped being the favorite poster child for vendors, who moved onto cloud and Big Data. With the spotlight off SOA, practitioners could focus less on "buying SOA" and more on SOA as a way of designing and building applications and systems.


 

"In the last few years we've seen people focus on architecture," Gartner analyst Anne Thomas Manes said recently about SOA. "The principles behind service orientation are starting to sink in. More people are doing it as part of their development process, and that is a good thing."

 

Second, the cloud itself played a role in the mainstreaming of SOA. While cloud and SOA shouldn't be confused, using a SOA approach to build cloud makes a lot of sense, whether you're a cloud company or whether you're using cloud resources and services.

 

"Although SOA's success in the enterprise has been mixed, the power of SOA is evident," wrote Hollis Tibbetts for eBizQ earlier this year. "The strength of SOA's core principals has been illustrated by the SOA's ability to embrace (and in some ways help define) new technologies such as Web services and the Internet. This evolution of SOA is happening again with the proliferation of elastic Cloud computing technologies."

 

Finally, SOA really seemed to find firm roots as a means of modernizing legacy systems, particularly in state governments. Over and over this year, I read how state governments were using SOA to modernize aging systems and connect them in new and exciting ways. As Joe McKendrick pointed out, SOA helped many states recoup major dollars during a time of severe budget cuts.

 

Those who've used SOA are starting to reap real dividends, both with existing legacy systems and with new technologies, such as the cloud and mobile devices. SOA makes it easier to design applications and systems without redesigning for different clients, including mobile devices, according to Manes. I suspect this fact alone will cause more people to take SOA seriously in the coming year.

 

IT and business alike are just now starting to understand how much SOA can bring to the table. It may not be perfect, it may not even be particularly easily defined, but SOA is finally showing its worth.



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