SOA: Not Dead Yet, Feeling Better

Loraine Lawson
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I don't know how I feel about things that won't stay dead-particularly this soon after Halloween. And yet, the news this week from the Burton Group: SOA, once declared dead, is ready for a resurrection.

 

You may recall, it was the Burton Group's own Anne Thomas Manes that declared SOA dead in the first place. Now, Chris Howard, vice president and service director with Burton, outlines his case for SOA's return in "The Lazarus Effect: SOA returns." I must say, calling it "The Lazarus Effect" does help negate the creepiness factor, although personally, I think a more fitting title would have been, "The Monty Python and The Holy Grail, Scene II Effect: I'm Not Dead Yet, Contends SOA."

 

I haven't seen the paper-which is only available to Burton Group (now owned by Gartner) customers-but TechWorld ran a summary of the paper. The newest component of the SOA comeback story is that cloud computing is going to breath new life into SOA. TechWorld includes this quote from the report:

To achieve the goals of a hybrid data center with processes spanning the internal/external boundary, service orientation is a prerequisite. This doesn't mean that sophisticated services and mature SOA must already exist before an enterprise can venture into the cloud, but rather that architecture strategies that involve cloud computing must have a service orientation foundation.

Of course, there are caveats. Howard warns that techologists must focus on the architecture, not the technology. That's not new advice, and it wasn't well followed the first time around, so I'm not sure why anyone would think it would suddenly catch on now. I can only assume it's hope.


 

This is the report making the headlines, but I think two things are worth noting:

  1. Manes never meant that SOA was dead as an architectural practice. She meant it was dead as something business leaders wanted to hear about and fund wholesale.

  2. Manes actually wrote a similar report, "Resurrecting SOA," in August for Gartner, in which she points out that even though "Business people no longer believe the hype," the "need for SOA is stronger now than ever before." Again, I haven't read the full report-just the summary-because you have to be a Gartner client to access it.
  3. Gartner actually resurrected SOA first,just four months after the Burton Group killed it the first time around. Although, in retrospect, I can't say that attempt took.

 

The core message, to me, seems to be that there needs to be less talk about SOA and less focus on justifying high-cost SOA "solutions." Instead, there needs to be more incorporation of real SOA architectural principles into new business and technology initiatives. (And I'm willing to admit I was on the wrong side of that argument several years ago.)

 

As David Linthicum points out, this has always been the case. Poor Dave. You can almost sense his frustration over reiterating this message in his recent post about this new Lazarus SOA:

... the core issues with SOA were around the junk technology being hyped as 'SOA,' and thus most SOA projects focused more on the technology than the approach and thus failed when the technology failed. The most obvious culprits there were those promoting ESBs as 'SOA-in-a-Box,' or anything related to design-time service governance. Notice that you don't hear much about those technologies anymore, in light of cloud computing and the return to SOA fundamentals.

Linthicum is a huge proponent of using SOA with the cloud, and I have to say, even to my untrained ear, it makes perfect sense to me that using a service-oriented architecture would help you in a service-oriented world, which is what cloud essentially is.

 

So, I can see how the cloud would rejuvenate SOA. That said, it's not an inevitable partnership. Gartner Research Vice President and fellow David Mitchell Smith has warned that companies shouldn't assume that building a service-oriented architecture will prepare them for the cloud.

 

Linthicum took Gartner to task on that one at an ebizQ conference, countering that the two were "joined at the hip."

 

"The patterns that are innate to service oriented architecture including data virtualization and leveraging data services really is what cloud computing is-you can't separate the two," he's quoted as saying.

 

Sadly, it seems even those who should best know cloud and SOA don't always understand this connection, which makes me wonder how in the world we expect anyone else to.



Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Nov 9, 2010 11:30 AM Chris Lockhart Chris Lockhart  says:

The original Manes article was, as you point out, widely misconstrued. The reality is she wasn't declaring any revolutionary idea. It was a recognition that we should get wise to the service hucksters. Consultants, vendors and other 'spenders of money' are busy hyping social, bpm and other easy marketing buzz terms at the moment. Perfect time for SOA to come back into our lexicon in a slower, more thoughtfully defined and executed manner.

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