Last night, I was reading a free Aberdeen Group white paper on SOA middleware. As the Aberdeen analysis shows, about half of those implementing SOA consider it to be essentially the same thing as Web services, despite analyst, experts, vendors and, yes, bloggers who tell them otherwise. It included this quote from a CIO bluntly defending this position:
We can bang together composite applications with web clients to our legacy applications as fast as the line of business asks. Satisfying the business is more important right now than a five-year SOA build-out plan.
I couldn't help but think of that quote while reading several blogs posts - including this one from IT Toolbox - questioning whether Microsoft "gets" SOA.
The debate began after a recent article titled "Microsoft Does Have a SOA Strategy," appeared on Redmond Magazine Online.
Microsoft, the article notes, has refused to participate in emerging standards, opting instead to pursue its own vision of what SOA is. Critics charge that Microsoft doesn't have an interest in SOA because Microsoft wants to promote proprietary solutions that lock companies into Microsoft's products.
Microsoft, of course, disagrees. They see their approach as offering tiers of SOA, enabling customers to choose their own implementation level. It just so happens that these levels correspond to products: At level one, you can simply use Windows Communications Foundation to service-enable your existing systems. At level two, you can use Visual Studio to build new services. At level three, you can add in BizTalk Server, which helps you wrap legacy applications with the new services - which, really, is one of the big selling points of SOA ... period.
The rest of the article focuses on analysts debating whether Microsoft will be a real SOA player. Dana Gardner, who is quoted in the article and a columnist for Redmond, also blogged about the article on ZDNet. He raises valid questions about how long companies will put up with Microsoft's unwillingness to play nicely in the SOA sandbox.
Haven't Linux fans been asking this question about Microsoft for a long, long time? And yet ... Microsoft persists.
I think this last paragraph from the Redmond Magazine article sums up why some companies will embrace Microsoft's version of SOA - even if it's not really
But it may not be necessary for Microsoft to go lion hunting when it can go trawling for fish instead. Microsoft has a history of going after high-volume, low margin markets, and with SOA still a high-end, high-margin business, the company may simply be sitting and waiting for the commoditized market to materialize with the arrival of low-cost SOA-based tools and platforms.
No kidding. Sometimes, it's not about what's right or even best. Sometimes, just as the intrepid CIO from Aberdeen's white paper pointed out, it's about what's quickest, most readily available and easiest. It's about what you can do now.
For many companies, particularly small and mid-sized firms, that's where Microsoft excels.