Core Problems with SOA

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SOA is becoming so accepted now, no one seems to question the core concepts anymore. For example, loose coupling. Loose coupling may help you reuse services, but it will also make it more difficult to trace problems.

Maybe it's time for a reality check. Luckily, I've found one at Application Development Trends.

Last week, Paul Lipton, senior architect for Office of the CTO at IT management software provider CA, Inc., spoke at the Enterprise Architect Summit 2007. His talk was titled "The New SOA Synergy: How Runtime Governance, Triage and Security Must Work Together," but according to this ADT article, he spent more time raising concerns about SOA's workability.

Mind you, Lipton isn't challenging whether you should move to SOA or not. According to ADT, Lipton cautioned conference-goers that SOA is here to stay.

You won't find solutions here, in part because these aren't issues you can quickly or easily fix. But they are problems you and your IT staff should understand as you move toward SOA.

Lipton lists a host of problems you'll encounter along your way to implementing SOA. These aren't problems that every new initiatives faces -- governance, funding, and light stuff like that. These are problems that cut to the core of SOA, including:

  • The problem of loose coupling. Do you know where your service comes from? Suddenly, your applications are a lot more complicated to unravel.
  • The problem of reuse. Many of the services were designed for specific reasons. But as they're reused, you can get bottlenecks and problems you never anticipated -- and without visibility into your infrastructure, you may not easily see. Plus, if the code fails, you've got one point of failure affecting the entire organization, Lipton points out.

He also raises issues about SOA and governance, security, service level agreements and the enterprise service bus. In fact, he seems to have a special aversion to ESBs, which he sees as wildcards that can wreck havoc on your SOA.


Don't despair at Lipton's list of challenges -- but don't be blissfully unaware, either. SOA, like any other major change, will bring its share of problems, but that doesn't mean it's not worth doing.