Give It Time: An SOA Lesson from My Great-Grandmother

Loraine Lawson

"SOA is integration," Gartner analyst Yefim Natis said at the Gartner AADI Summit-words quoted in this SearchSOA.com article.

 

It wasn't well-received on the SOA Yahoo Group, where SOA experts debate the nuances of service-oriented architecture.

 

"What can we do to slow down spreading such Integration SOA madness?" asked Enterprise Solutions Architect Michael Poulin.

 

If you haven't been keeping tabs, this is a hot-button issue for SOA. The argument is that SOA is an architecture and about so much more than tying things together. Anne Thomas Manes of the Burton Group explained it this way in her post to the Yahoo Group:

"Many organizations mistakenly perceive SOA as an integration strategy. But it is not. SOA is about architecture. To achieve SOA, you must rearchitect your systems. You must remove the deadwood. Every organization has too much stuff -- too many redundant applications and data sources. SOA is about cleaning house. You will not simplify your environment, reduce costs, and gain agility until you reduce that redundancy."

But the facts are these: Most companies aren't getting into SOA for a complete rebuild. Most companies deploy SOA because it's so darn helpful with simplifying integration, as another Gartner analyst, Andrew White, recently learned while interviewing clients about SOA use.

 


Or, to continue the house metaphor, companies don't want Extreme Makeover. They're looking for a slight update, something that ties the room together, as interior designers like to say.

 

And here's another hard truth: Although David Linthicum and others believe that agility is the ROI for SOA, many companies are realizing SOA ROI through integration.

 

I understand that the experts want to fight the perception that SOA is only a method to do integration-that it's just Enterprise Application Integration 2.0, as some have suggested.

 

But I also think a lot of SOA people do themselves and SOA a disservice by disavowing integration as a real reason for SOA. Hey, SOA works for integration. Why not embrace that? Particularly given SOA's recent fall from grace.

 

As Yahoo Group poster Rob Eamon

wrote:

"While I wouldn't say 'SOA is integration' per se, I'd say that integration is one of the core values of the SO approach. Services have 1 or more interfaces. Interaction with services is via those (and only those) interfaces. Services (and other components such as service clients) exist in independent ownership domains. Those characteristics are the heart of integration. SO demands that one consider integration up front rather than as an afterthought. IMO, integration strategy is a side-effect of applying SO principles at the enterprise level."

Fortunately, there is a middle ground here, and that's seeing integration as a first step for SOA. White described the connection between SOA and integration:

"Given my background in Supply Chain, I would argue that there is potentially far greater value to the business from SOA at the strategic level, that is, in the rapid orchestration, and re-orchestration, of business applications supporting new, evolving business processes. The baby steps of 'simpler integration' are fine, but SOA needs to be more relevant to business if IT is to leverage the approach and support the business."

So, maybe instead of saying, "No, SOA is not integration," and then advocating a complete overhaul, maybe SOA experts could try this: "Sure, great! Deploy SOA for integration-then come back to me in six months so we can talk about what else you can accomplish using this approach."

 

I think SOA advocates could use a lesson from my great-grandmother. My father tells a story about her - a pretty tough old lady who loved to fish. One time, my father was trying to rush me out the door, but like any four-year-old, I wanted to play and was easily distracted. I was struggling to get my coat on. He became particularly impatient and snapped at me to hurry.

 

My great-grandmother intervened. "Give her time, Larry. Give her time," she admonished.

 

Eventually, I figured it out.

 

So will the companies using SOA for integration. You've just got to give them time.



Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post

Dec 18, 2008 6:48 AM Michael Poulin Michael Poulin  says:
Dear Lorain,Your Great-Grandmother was absolutely right!Fortunately to SOA, it was given several years of time and different people have chosen different directions. Let me comment a bit more because it was me who brought that SearchSOA.com article to the attention of the SOA Yahoo! Group. Actually, there were 4 responses and only one associated SOA with integration. All others "well-received" it with critics but did appreciate the last statement of that article - "SOA is less a technology than a way to dependably extract business value from technology. It is a journey, and it involves work."I think that Anne Thomas Manes explained our position with regard to this matter well enough. To the one response about SOA and integration, it is a long discussion between me and Rob Eamon on whether we can consider service interactions as a form of integration. While this is a theoretical topic, let me get closer to the practice.From the moment when the Web Service Technology appeared, it was first standard-based mechanism for integration between independent and disconnected applications. The integration did not make them more connected by themselves and they continued suffering from silo problems (in support) and redundancy (in investments). At the same time (more accurate, since 1996), SOA announced its principles that Web Services implemented partially. However, as a technology, Web Services concentrated on the interfaces, not on the services. Soon, due to articulation convenience, long 'Web Service' was shortening into 'SOA' based on the similarity of the word 'service' and popularized while the core of SOA was dropped off.Web Services is the great technical solution for application integration but it has as much common with SOA as a 'pub' door has with a laundry. No doubt, such door is very convenient for the laundry, especially, when you carry a stack of washed shirts, but the laundry can be served by a revolving door with no problems and, by no means, a 'pub' door makes an office a laundry.The believe that Web Services is SOA is the major mistake in some organisations-using Web Services for integration does not constitute SOA. It is not my personal opinion, it is what OASIS SOA RM (and coming RA) standard says. As you can guess, very many technology vendors are uncomfortable with such opinion though the picture is changing right in front of us (IBM, Microsoft, Oracle/BEA and others change their understanding of what SOA is and what for). Yes, many organisations needed better integration means and it's nothing wrong with it. Yes, the most effective results of SOA require serious re-consideration of what the business and IT are doing, for whom and why. These are two differnt things that share the same magic word 'service'. SOA also may be started small but as the end-to-end, from the business to the data model, functional solution of the business problem. This is why SOA is not a technology, it is a style of business solutions reflected in the special use of technical capabilities. May be an integration used as a part of such solution? Yes, maybe, if needed or, more accurately, if it provides efficient re-use of existing technical resources but in any case the entire solution has to follow the SO principles (which integrated applications usually do not).Finally, 'But I also think a lot of SOA people do themselves and SOA a disservice by disavowing integration as a real reason for SOA. Hey, SOA works for integration. Why not embrace that?'- No, please, do not do this because to say 'SOA people' we have to define, first of all, what SOA is. According to the Standard, it is not integration and SOA DOES NOT WORK FOR INTEGRATION in spite of what Gartner repeats after the vendors. It is the Web Services that work for integration, and God bless them! Please, leave SOA for the SERVICE ORIENTATION based on SO Principles.- Michael Poulin, Ph.D. SOA Yahoo! Group Member OASIS Member Certified SOA Architect Reply
Dec 18, 2008 6:49 AM Michael Poulin Michael Poulin  says:
Dear Lorain,Your Great-Grandmother was absolutely right!Fortunately to SOA, it was given several years of time and different people have chosen different directions.Let me comment a bit more because it was me who brought that SearchSOA.com article to the attention of the SOA Yahoo!Group.Actually, there were 4 responses and only one associated SOA with integration.All others "well-received" it with critics but did appreciate the last statement of that article - "SOA is less a technology than a way to dependably extract business value from technology.It is a journey, and it involves work."I think that Anne Thomas Manes explained our position with regard to this matter well enough.To the one response about SOA and integration, it is a long discussion between me and Rob Eamon on whether we can consider service interactions as a form of integration.While this is a theoretical topic, let me get closer to the practice.From the moment when the Web Service Technology appeared, it was first standard-based mechanism for integration between independent and disconnected applications.The integration did not make them more connected by themselves and they continued suffering from silo problems (in support) and redundancy (in investments).At the same time (more accurate, since 1996), SOA announced its principles that Web Services implemented partially.However, as a technology, Web Services concentrated on the interfaces, not on the services.Soon, due to articulation convenience, long 'Web Service' was shortening into 'SOA' based on the similarity of the word 'service' and popularized while the core of SOA was dropped off.Web Services is the great technical solution for application integration but it has as much common with SOA as a "pub" door has with a laundry.No doubt, such door is very convenient for the laundry, especially, when you carry a stack of washed shirts, but the laundry can be served by a revolving door with no problems and, by no means, a "pub" door makes an office a laundry.The believe that Web Services is SOA is the major mistake in some organisations-using Web Services for integration does not constitute SOA.It is not my personal opinion, it is what OASIS SOA RM (and coming RA) standard says.As you can guess, very many technology vendors are uncomfortable with such opinion though the picture is changing right in front of us (IBM, Microsoft, Oracle/BEA and others change their understanding of what SOA is and what for).Yes, many organisations needed better integration means and it's nothing wrong with it.Yes, the most effective results of SOA require serious re-consideration of what the business and IT are doing, for whom and why.These are two differnt things that share the same magic word 'service'.SOA also may be started small but as the end-to-end, from the business to the data model, functional solution of the business problem.This is why SOA is not a technology, it is a style of business solutions reflected in the special use of technical capabilities.May be an integration used as a part of such solution?Yes, maybe, if needed or, more accurately, if it provides efficient re-use of existing technical resources but in any case the entire solution has to follow the SO principles (which integrated applications usually do not).Finally, "But I also think a lot of SOA people do themselves and SOA a disservice by disavowing integration as a real reason for SOA.Hey, SOA works for integration.Why not embrace that?"- No, please, do not do this because to say "SOA people" we have to define, first of all, what SOA is. Reply
Dec 18, 2008 6:49 AM Michael Poulin Michael Poulin  says:
According to the Standard, it is not integration and SOA DOES NOT WORK FOR INTEGRATION in spite of what Gartner repeats after the vendors.It is the Web Services that work for integration, and God bless them!Please, leave SOA for the SERVICE ORIENTATION based on SO Principles.- Michael Poulin, Ph.D.SOA Yahoo!Group Member OASIS Member Certified SOA Architect Reply
Dec 19, 2008 6:54 AM Venkatesh Balakumar Venkatesh Balakumar  says:
This is very true, not only for SOA but for any other Enterprise based initiatives, we have to give time and not expect something out of a magic bullet. Reply
Dec 19, 2008 9:55 AM Michael Poulin Michael Poulin  says:
How much time is enough and what for? If you are going into a wrong direction, your only hope is that our Earth is a kind of sphere... Reply
Feb 5, 2009 10:20 AM Jim Hammett Jim Hammett  says: in response to Michael Poulin

Michael- Is there a switch that companies can flip to instantly service-enable all their enterprise systems? And does that switch also instantly change all their applications and B2B interfaces so that they now take advantage of these services to interact with the systems so that they can get orders logged, good shipped, payments processed etc? Finally, does this switch also magically reconcile business information across these application and system silos?

If there is no such switch, then companies will have to continue to deal with the classic integration problems for a while. They will have to ensure that order information shows up correctly in various systems. They will have to ensure that as payments are processed various systems are updated. They will have to ensure customer data is consistently reflected in siloed systems. Etc.

Exactly, what is the issue in using services to get this done? Your  argument seems to amount to saying that SOA services should only be used for solving once class of business problems, but not others.

Perhaps you can illustrate your objection with an actual example and avoid vague and indefensible statements like:

SOA is about architecture.

SOA is about cleaning house.

SOA is less a technology than a way to dependably extract business value from technology.

SOA is a journey, and it involves work.

Reply

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