The Quiet Success of Web Services 'SOA'

Loraine Lawson

While experts debated the definition of service-oriented architecture, its state (alive or dead?) and the significance of ESBs for SOA, a funny thing happened. Service-oriented, if not SOA per se, quietly became ubiquitous, argues Hugh Taylor, author and a marketing director of an LA enterprise software company.


In a column published on SOA World Magazine, Taylor makes a compelling case for why SOA is a success, particulary in terms of interoperability, but in a much simpler way than analysts had originally predicted:

SOA has become so omnipresent, so unsurprisingly effective, it's a triumph. While many large organizations have been planning and executing far-reaching SOA plans, a different reality has snuck up on everyone. Service-orientation, if not actual SOA, is simply embedded into most software today, and it is routinely pulling off what used to be considered a nearly impossible task: the seamless, low-friction interoperation of radically different applications.

Taylor calls this Ho-Hum SOA, and notes that it's an approach that relies on Web services. Some will argue that he's actually talking primarily about Web services-an approach many refer to as "just a bunch of Web services," or JBOWs. It's a useful, if somewhat disparaging, way to differentiate service-oriented techniques from a full-blown architecture.


Granted, this wasn't what SOA was supposed to be. As Taylor points out, back in 2001, SOA was envisioned as enterprise-wide and much more customized. Remember the promises of reusing services? Remember when everyone started to back down from that promise?


It turns out, instead of building custom code to reuse, organizations are buying services, which, in fact, are being reused, he says:

...what seems to be more common, and a lot more interesting in its own boring way, is the simple, nonchalant hooking up of Web service-enabled applications as requirements demand it. It seems as if the preference for packaged applications with exposed Web services has outstripped the early SOA vision of a universe of custom-developed Web services being tied together in wholly new composite apps.

The fact is, analysts have struggled to reconcile the use of Web services as opposed to "full-blown" service-oriented architectures for some time now. Gartner Analyst Nick Gall told me in an interview last year that Gartner recognized Web companies were adopting Web services in a distinct way. He called it WOA.It wasn't what analysts had in mind when they said "SOA," and yet, it was service-oriented, plus useful and efficient for the businesses that chose this path.

Taylor's just putting together the pieces and, instead of debating whether these implementations are SOA, he's identifying a larger and unheralded integration success story: Web services:

... Web services are the remarkable, nearly invisible magic in current integration scenarios. I see this constantly in my work at Mitratech, whose TeamConnect software is used to manage corporate legal and compliance departments at large companies. Regardless of whether our clients have developed the kind of full-blown, enterprise SOA that everyone had on the drawing board circa 2005 or not, we are consistently implementing Web services-based integrations to other enterprise applications.

This shift to Web services hasn't happened without a cost. Data management, security, governance, and the ongoing problems caused by point-to-point integration are among the issues he cites.That's why he's not saying companies should stop pursuing a broader vision of SOA-or, as Joe McKendrick says, to view SOA as an evolution, occuring in phases. Quite the contrary, Taylor advises that "...the big SOA plan and corporate SOA initiative are still important projects to work on."


But rather than be frustrated at how far we've fallen short, he suggests IT acknowledge how much has changed, and for the better, since SOA first came on the horizon.

Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
May 13, 2010 4:25 AM Hugh Taylor Hugh Taylor  says:

I am very flattered that you picked this up.  HT


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