Defining SOA for Courts a Growing Business for Consultancy

Loraine Lawson

How's this for an unusual business model: Defining SOA for corporate attorneys.

ZapThink reports this week that serving as an expert witness about what is and is not SOA is now a growing part of its business, as more companies take to the courts after feeling cheated by high-priced SOA consultants.

Apparently, the problem is some SOA consultants bring in the one or two people who actually understand SOA and they sell the deal. But when it comes time to build the SOA, the consultancies send clueless newbies and the client company doesn't get what it expected. The end result -- a legal battle.

Oh, the irony. Companies hire SOA consultants, sue SOA consultants for being over-priced and over-promised, and now both companies have to hire SOA consultants to define SOA in court.

Although, really, it seems obvious this would happen, didn't it? The definition of SOA keeps changing. The people building SOAs can't even agree on a definition for "service," which one would think would be the basic building block of a service-oriented architecture.

I'd hate to sit on a jury in a SOA lawsuit.

But I do admire ZapThink Senior Analyst and Principal Jason Bloomberg for writing "Forensic SOA." He valiantly works out a legal definition for SOA. I suggest you read the whole piece, because it's quite detailed and intriguing. Ultimately, however, he admits ZapThink's definition of SOA largely depends upon exemption -- in other words, it's easier to say what SOA is not than what it is.

For instance, ZapThink does NOT require any of the following for a SOA:

  • An EBS
  • XML
  • Supporting composition
  • Integration

Though, obviously, SOAs can involve any and all of those things.


You can sort of see how this sort of backing into a definition would lead to problems with writing the project scope.


Bloomberg points out that if you're happy with your SOA and it solves the business problem, then you shouldn't worry about the definition. That's true, but it's not particularly comforting or useful to those of you currently building or just embarking on SOA.


Hopefully, Bloomberg or other SOA experts will follow up with advice about how you can protect yourself from bad deals and broken SOA promises.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
May 4, 2008 9:55 AM Paul Wallis Paul Wallis  says:
Hi Loraine,Great article, I agree about the jury - I shudder thinking about how a lay person is meant to understand what so many in IT cannot agree upon.Seems to me there is a lot of hype about SOA these days and there are too many acronyms flying about. I thought it might be worth going back to basics, so I've made an attempt to do that with my post "Understanding SOA" which can be found here: might also be interested in my post about "Cloud Computing", an area of IT which is also the subject of too much hype: Reply
Oct 21, 2008 6:01 AM Spike Spike  says:
Great article, I agree about the jury too. Reply

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