Notes from the Services Integration Trenches

Loraine Lawson

Ken Rugg writes on The SOA Infrastructure Blog that it's "just plain crazy" to be afraid of SOA. Rugg is the VP of products at DataXtend, a division of Progress, and writes that he can certainly understand how you might come to fear SOA:

"While SOA can deliver the benefit of agility, that doesn't necessarily mean it's easy to implement."

He seems to think it would help if people would step back and look at the big picture, and then he segues into a discussion of data, SOA and something called semantic integration.


But after reading this recent blog post by Rick Strahl and the ensuing comments, I'm not so sure you shouldn't be scared. To tell you the truth, after reading the trouble Strahl's had integrating services, I'm a bit scared of SOA myself, and I'm just a technology journalist.


Further, after reading Strahl's description of some of his day-to-day struggles, I suspect the problem isn't a failure to see the big pictures, so much as the devils in the details.


And who is this Strahl? He's a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional and owner of West Wind Technologies, a small IT consultant firm specializing in Internet application development. It's based in Maui, Hawaii, which, in my humble opinion, puts Strahl ahead of the pack in terms of smart - though, I admit that's not traditionally how one ranks intelligence. He also speaks and writes about FoxPro at conferences, largely because he authored West Wind Web Connection, a Web application framework for Visual FoxPro, and co-authored Visual WebBuilder.


But more importantly, he's in the trenches, trying to make this stuff work. And he's having a darn hard time of it, particularly when he's trying to get big-vendor services to connect to internal services:

"Now, we live in a world of Web Services and WCF in .NET which is in my opinion an awesome tool for both creating and consuming Web Services and it's been a tremendous help in interfacing with various services. But I'm also finding out that there are still a lot of services and SOA architectures that are rather difficult to interface with. The reality is that Web Services interoperability is far from ideal even today."

You could shrug it off and say, "Well, he's a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional. Maybe he doesn't have the expertise to do Web services."


Maybe. But he's also complaining about Microsoft. And the truth is, there are a lot of programmers in the same boat - as he points out at one point.


In fact, read the comments: Strahl's not the only one struggling with this.


As I mentioned, this is a piece from the trenches, not a strategic article for executives. But that perspective is important, too. For example, you'll quickly see why integrating different SOAs will be a challenge for large organizations. If you read into the comments, you can also learn more about how REST might - or might not - affect this problem.


More importantly, you can at least see what programmers are facing. Perhaps knowing about these problems will help you ask vendors better questions before you acquire service stacks.


As Rugg said, you do need to see the big picture - but if you want to make sure your big picture comes together, you'll still need to study what's happening in the trenches.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Feb 5, 2008 2:09 AM Ahmed Ahmed  says:
salut Reply
Feb 5, 2008 2:27 AM Loraine Lawson Loraine Lawson  says:
Mr. Bernard, I did not mean to even imply Rick Strahl should be taken with any amount of salt. Rather, I was trying to head off the 'yeah but' posters at the pass. Obviously, he knows his stuff. Reply
Feb 5, 2008 10:36 AM Dave Bernard Dave Bernard  says:
I've been a software developer for 29 years and am currently CEO of a technology startup based in Atlanta, GA. I've met and chatted with Rick may times over the years, and let me say that Rick is not just an MVP, but is a true thought leader in our business. He is usually one of the very first to immerse himself in new technologies, and has remained, regardless of his apparent affiliation with the Microsoft side, a very objective voice. He is one of the very, very few technical folks out there whose voice has the ability to change our company's direction. I would take what he says with more than a grain of salt. Reply

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