Defining SOA - and Other Tech Terms - Without Hype

Share it on Twitter  
Share it on Facebook  
Share it on Linked in  

Occasionally, readers send me terse e-mails questioning the definitions for various technology terms I discuss in this blog. Frequently, they think there's too much marketing-speak or vagueness in the terminology.


Unfortunately, I can't do anything about it. I'm not the one making this stuff up, though I do try to cut out as much "PR-speak" as possible. I do, however, completely understand their frustration.


Too often in IT, it's difficult to tell whether you're reading about a new technology, new product or just a new marketing campaign. I don't know why so many people worry about English being the dominate language in the United States, because nobody speaks English anymore - least of all North American businesses or anyone who works for them. Just ask The Washington Post's Gene Weingarten if you don't believe me. (And while you're at it, tell the poor fellow what SAP is.)


It's always refreshing - if unusual - to talk to an analyst who speaks plainly and without a lot of initials. So, I was really grateful when I interviewed Susan Eustis, president of WinterGreen Research, recently about a report she'd written on "SOA Engines." Don't get me wrong: Eustis is careful with her language. She just doesn't ruin it by throwing in a lot of acronyms and unnecessarily bloated terms.


Perhaps that's why I love her definition of SOA:

So many of my colleagues, and you even hear people inside the companies, talk about SOA as if it's an architecture or something that drifts in the air like ether. It's not true. It's just another piece of software that you use to do something. In this case, it's a piece of software that's very much in demand, but it's not been defined, so it's a whole lot of pieces of software --it's a portal, it's a BPM, it's an ESB, it's a whole combination of software that will be packaged as SOA going forward, but it isn't quite at that point yet.

In short, she said, it's middleware. And that's why IBM is so dominant in the SOA space. It makes and sells lots of middleware.


I was shocked. I'd never heard anybody be so blunt, or, for that matter, understandable. So, if you're frustrated with all the confusion over SOA and processes, you may find the interview as refreshing as I did.


The findings of the WinterGreen Research report, by the way, are echoed in a Gartner report released this month about the portal, process management suites and other middleware market offerings. While WinterGreen looked exclusively at SOA, Gartner included other software in its assessment.


Even with the broader scope, eWEEK reports that IBM is still the dominant player in the middleware space, with 31.8 percent of total software revenue last year. The WinterGreen report found that Microsoft came in second when measuring shares of the SOA market. But if you include portals, ESB and other middleware, BEA has the second-largest market share at 10.5 percent, according to Gartner.