Accepting SOA and the New Challenges It Creates

Loraine Lawson
Slide Show

7 Steps to Smarter Integration

Sometimes, change can be worthwhile. The key is knowing what's worth pursuing and what's not.

As a tech journalist, I experienced some dark days when it came to SOA. When I came to integration, my last tech beat had been security, and even though I'd covered a wide swath of technologies and technology issues previously, it still took me a while to really wrap my head around service-oriented architecture.


I wanted so much to separate the hype from the reality. To be honest, I don't think I've ever encountered something so resistant to hard facts. I now realize that was a function of covering something that's not merely a technology, architecture or a design principle, but a dash of all three.


Recently, SOA afficionado Joe McKendrick interviewed IBM's Steve Mills about the past and future of SOA. He reminded the senior vice president and group executive of IBM's Software Group about remarks Mills had made about SOA in 2002, and asked what he thought the next five to 10 years would bring for SOA. Mills said:

Today, versus five to 10 years ago, some of things we're doing today around SOA and the amount of loosely coupled functional characteristics in some applications today are far beyond what we thought we could ever achieve leveraging SOA. Again, the acceleration of cost and performance and improved infrastructure tools and so on contributed to being able to do things now that you couldn't do before. And I suspect with even faster computers, more viable scenarios will emerge over the next decade.

After reading that, I realized there was another reason SOA had been so resistant to a simple definition: Even the best and brightest were still figuring out SOA.


That said, there's no doubt that in some cases, the "exploration of SOA" involved a deliberate redefining of the term to fit vendor products.


Nonetheless, it seems this is the year that organizations are finally settling down with SOA - not as a fad, a perfect solution-but one viable option. It's a good thing, and certainly makes me feel a lot better about all those hours I spent reading and writing about it.


But there are still some issues organizations are working out. Recently, for instance, consultant Peter Evans-Greenwood raised questions about how organizations can manage the incredible flexibility SOA creates. Mills made a similar point in his interview with McKendrick, pointing out that as more applications are built with services, IT will need to become better at service orchestration, both within and outside the enterprise. He also said developers will need to adapt by learning to build applications with modeling techniques.Mills explained:

The good news is that SOA has given me tremendous flexibility and real leverage on costs. The down side is that I have to spend even more time thinking about how I'm going to manage all these services, and certify services, and be able to ensure that I can sustain my overall business model in context of everything I have to do to protect my brand to manage my company effectively. It's not that it's impossible to do. It just changes the nature of what the IT organizations become responsible for. IT becomes a service aggregator, much more than a service producer.

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May 13, 2010 12:11 PM Peter Evans-Greenwood Peter Evans-Greenwood  says:

Thanks for the link!

I think that the flexibility and service aggregator issues are only just the tip of the iceburg. The big shift in business that we're seeing is from supply driven business models and value chains, to demand driven models and value chains. This is seening the shift from back office to front office, production to consumers, push to pull, all of which is best summeriesed by what's happening in Gov 2.0.

From an IT point of view, I think that we need to change the way we think about applications. We're still using a supply/push model founded on managing data. Business doesn't work this way any more, which is causing one of the disconnects between business and IT and which, in turn, is creating a lot of unwanted complexity we're seeing in SOA. We need to move to a demand/pull model founded on driving the right decisions. The carrot is the opportunities this can bring for those of us in IT, the stick is the radical heart surgery the business will force on IT departments that don't adapt.



May 24, 2010 12:43 PM Frank Millar Frank Millar  says:

Loraine said-

"...I don't think I've ever encountered something so resistant to hard facts."

Well, this edition of the column seems to well underscore that point.

Mills said-

"IT becomes a service aggregator"

Ok, but that just points to the now-well-practiced areas of BPM, using ESBs, using services orchestration, and using services directories.

PEG said-

"Business doesn't work this way any more..."

I have multiple clients begging to work 'this way' right now.  Since this premise doesn't ring true, the conclusion...

" is creating a lot of unwanted complexity we're seeing in SOA." less than compelling or particularly useful.

PEG said-

"We're still using a supply/push model" and "We need to move to a demand/pull model" are possibly some kind of premise/thesis supported by a link to a provocative presentation (in which neither are defined) about the evolution of business, but any practical, useful connection of those thoughts to SOA are not obvious.

Good luck, Loraine.  I think your struggle continues.

Frank Millar

Millar Consultants, LLC


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