Can IT Really Handle a SOA, Web 2.0 Enterprise?

Loraine Lawson

As a reporter, I can be really annoying to non-reporters. Most recently, I nearly drove my daughter's Girl Scout leader to drink with all my questions about the bank account she and I, as treasurer, were setting up.


I wanted to read the fine print and, of course, I had a few follow-up questions. She felt it would all be fine, just fine, and why couldn't I just shut up and sign the damn papers?


I know it's annoying, but I've learned the hard way: Sometimes, the question you forget to ask causes you the most trouble.


This week, Forbes columnist Dan Woods is asking fantastic questions about service-oriented architecture and mashups that somehow the rest of us forgot to ask. Woods, the chief technology officer and founder of Evolved Media, begins by pointing how how SOA and mashups alter the creation of applications:

But for a mash-up or composite application, there is no manufacturer. The IT department or the person who assembled the application plays that role. How will these applications be run with the stability and scalability of the manufactured applications?

The short-term answer, he believes, is they won't. And then he proceeds to point out a lot more questions IT will have a hard time answering about SOA and mashup applications -- unless IT engages in some serious new skill-building, and right now.


His point isn't to dissuade companies from deploying SOA or using mashups, but to make you think long and hard about what the reality will be once you do:

Companies like Google, eBay, Salesforce.com and Amazon consider their vast learning in managing operational complexity in an SOA world to be both a competitive advantage and a barrier to entry. IT departments going down this road should start building operational skills to manage this new world in order to avoid a series of rather predictable train wrecks.

SOA blogger Joe McKendrick posted a response to Woods' article in which he made some excellent counterpoints. For instance, McKendrick pointed out packaged software was never really ready 'right out of the box' and that end-users will be able to do some of the application work in a SOA-enabled, Web 2.0 enterprise.


But Woods' question is still a good one, in part because no one has quite put it that bluntly. Sure, we knew there was a skills gap in building SOA and supporting mashups. But as far as I know, no one's really broached the subject of whether most IT divisions could really handle the deployment of new applications in a SOA, mashup enterprise.


No one bothered to really ask, "Is IT ready for this?"


Woods seems to think the answer is no, most IT shops are not ready. From where I stand, that means the next unasked and most relevant question is this:


Are you?

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Nov 13, 2008 2:51 PM Alex Neihaus Alex Neihaus  says:
Loraine, our point of view is that for the vast majority of SOA software is itself sent to IT departments "unmanufactured." IOW, IT has to build a product BEFORE they can build the applications Woods describes.As transparently self-serving as this comment may be read to be, we believe that software companies should eliminate that problem for customers with all-in-one solutions like ActiveVOS. At least then, IT can acquire the skills necessary to deal with their applications without having to worry about making sense of the bucket of bolts that most SOA enabling software dumps on them. Reply
Nov 14, 2008 4:53 PM Steven Rdzak Steven Rdzak  says:
Loraine,Most IT shops are not ready for this model, mine included. The current set of traditional IT professionals are all trained to deliver software in a "build to order" mentality. If they are to move to an "assemble to order" model then they have to change the engineering model to build standard components that they can mashup together to create solutions; not something that is going to happen overnight.Alex is somewhat right in that IT has to manufacture a product (a.k.a business capability) before higher level composite applications can be realized. Many times they buy COTS to get the "pre-manufactured" product but then the problem is no standardized web interfaces to the packaged capabilities so they can be leveraged in SOA mashup.Lastly, IT has got to get past the "build to last" thinking that current solution development attempts to undertake. Change is happening so rapidly these days, unlike the past generation business models, that the new model is one where applications need to be quickly composed to support a short term business need and then just as quickly when the need is no longer there, the application torn down/discarded.Google and Amazon are constantly upgrading their capabilities multiple times in one day. It is an operational mindset that traditional IT just is not prepared to handle, mainly due to fragile tightly coupled architectures that are the result of the "build-to-order" additions over multiple years.To get ready for it is going to take changing the mindset from "custom build" to "assembly." Vendors will have to help make the transition to "assembly" easier, and getting operations to be able to support updates on a daily basis. Reply
Nov 14, 2008 8:28 PM Venkatesh Bala Venkatesh Bala  says:
My experience is, It must be made ready for it. I currently work for integrating my software applications with really large scale government integration projects where all the services from the government are SOA based (I live in the UK). The software vendors who are not SOA enabled are made to do so by giving time and money. Luckily the applications i am working was SOA ready at least 2 years back.By looking at the size of integration i am doing, i can clearly see the beauty of SOA. I believe if SOA is used in right place and at right time, it definitely won't fade away. Reply

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