Amazon's Competitive Advantage in New Venture? SOA

Loraine Lawson

Remember when SOA was all the rage? And then it turned up dead and some other stuff happened, and the next thing you know, SOA talk gave way to cloud and Big Data and all that stuff?


Well, the thing is, it never really went away. I still find mention of SOA in the strangest places.


Take, for instance, this week's news that Amazon is launching its own e-procurement site, Amazon Supply. This new service will compete in 14 industrial and corporate supply areas, including materials, with established B2B suppliers.


Needless to say, it's potentially disrupted news in that market, and I was reading an excellent analysis on Spend Matters when I saw this:

This gets to the crux of what Amazon is exceptional at and what others like Ariba and SAP have not fully internalized -- building a platform-based business with interoperability at the very core of the DNA. The advantage of a platform-based model based on true service-oriented architecture (SOA) is difficult to overstate. As we previously wrote, such platforms can enable interoperability that allows for capabilities, content and related activity to be consumed by other systems, suites and tools, creating worlds where data integration is replaced by true information coordination and orchestration...A lack of a SOA model is the reason one of the best-known vendors in the sector has had such a challenging time with anything-but-vanilla external systems and data integrations across its SaaS/cloud-based products, not to mention making its latest SaaS enhancements available in the supposedly same code base for CD customers.

Boom! There it is: SOA, delivering a true strategic advantage - in the cloud, no less - in a way that could literally lead to lost business for Amazon's new competitors.


"Everyone wants SOA, as long as it's not SOA," wrote SOA expert Joe McKendrick, summarizing SOA's public relations status for the past two years.


What they want, it seems, is APIs. APIs are the new hot and sexy, the way we integrate the cloud and mobile apps. APIs are hip and cool.


And, it turns out, APIs are made possible by can you guess it? SOA. (Or, at least, the best are - but as McKendrick points out elsewhere, not all APIs are smartly developed.)


James Governor, an industry analyst who writes the Monkchips blog, pointed this out recently, noting that all the major SOA governance vendors - Layer 7 Technologies, WS02 and SOA Software - are now "retooling" to support Web APIs, programming models and services.


It's the realization of a prediction he made in 2010, that we'd see "SOA without SOA."


"The hard work done by Oracle, SAP and others will begin to bear fruit," Governor wrote. "Not in terms of the acronyms loved by Architecture Astronauts such as XML Web Services, WSDL, UDDI and other acronyms - but the componentisation of application suites into more modular services makes them far more amenable to web-based integration."


Integration - you may recall - was supposed to be made easier by SOA, in part because it reduced complexity, making development a bit less like wooden blocks from lumber scrapes, and a bit more like Legos.


It seems to be working out well for Amazon, which will be able to roll out new B2B supply categories in literally months, thanks in no small part to its service-oriented architecture.

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