SOA Reborn

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More than a few pundits have speculated that given shift toward application development on the Web that is anchored by easy-to-work-with scripting languages, the whole concept of service oriented architectures (SOA) must be dying. After all, SOA by definition could not possibly be flexible enough to keep pace with all the rapid changes being made to Web application environments.

But rather than roll over and play dead, IBM and other proponents of SOA are reinventing the entire concept. Rather than trying to define what a specific SOA end point should look like, IBM now defines a SOA end point to be anything that can be seen as a service. In that context, even the most simple Javascript application is SOA-enabled.

In IBM's expanded definition of SOA, the intelligence that governs the interactions between all the services is being handled centrally by a more intelligent set of a middleware technologies. This governance process, which in the context of IBM is established through a Websphere Service Registry Repository (WSRR),  is going to be especially important because the growth of SOA going forward is going to be a lot more organic.

Instead of thinking about integrating code, customers are going to look to integrated business processes that will be enabled by multiple levels of SOA capability. Ideally, each end point would be as mature as possible in terms of SOA capabilities, but IBM is committed to be substantially less puritanical about what characterizes a SOA-enabled end point. Furthermore, IBM also sees customers implementing multiple enterprise service bus (ESB) technologies based on the requirements of any number of applications, rather than trying to dictate that customers maintain a single ESB standard.

As part of that realization, IBM sees the need for a federated approach to ESB management that will provide the governance that a federated ESB model would require. In IBM parlance that federated ESB architecture is known as a universal messaging backbone.

It's pretty clear at this point that the concept of SOA is morphing pretty rapidly. Originally, there was a strict interpretation of what SOA could be. As a result, most organizations thought of SOA as something complex that represented good computer science that should be implemented on new applications, as opposed to trying to retrofit existing applications to be SOA-compliant. Now we live in an age where applications by definition require integration, which in turn appears to be leading us to expand the definition of SOA by essentially encompassing anything that can be called as a service, versus something that specifically supports a narrowly defined set of standard protocols.

As such, don't be surprised to wake up one morning to discover that SOA has finally gone mainstream. In fact, IBM in its latest financials already attributes 57 percent of its software revenue, which is one of the fastest growing sectors of the company, to branded middleware sales.