Can IT Really Handle a SOA, Web 2.0 Enterprise?


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?