Guerilla SOA Starts with Business Priorities

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SOA advocates seem to be of two ilk: the spend-a-lot middleware types and the do-it-yourself types who argue SOA doesn't have to cost anything.


If you're in the latter group, you're probably going to love InfoQ's newly posted Webcast with Dr. Jim Webber, an SOA practice leader with Thoughtworks. The rest of you may or may not agree with Webber, but I bet you learn something, nonetheless.


Webber is an IT heavyweight. According to InfoQ, he was the lead developer with Hewlett-Packard on the industry's first Web Services Transaction solution. He also co-authored "Developing Enterprise Web Services - An Architect's Guide."


He recently presented at QCon London on "Guerilla SOA." Interviewer Stefan Tilkov starts the 24-minute Q&A with a look at what Webber means by that term.


Webber compares typical SOA implementations with massive military operations: A platoon of consultants is brought in, armed with huge middleware platforms. By contrast, Guerilla SOA looks for "lightweight engagements" - situations where you can address a specific business problem.


In short, Webber argues that Guerilla SOA is a much more business-friendly approach. You can organize your SOA projects according to the priorities outlined by the business stakeholder - as opposed to an approach dictated by consultants and a middleware platform. These smaller engagements are also quicker to start and complete, so you can demonstrate results sooner and you can get feedback from the business.


That's what I call a good argument.


Tilkov, the interviewer, then asks if the Guerilla approach can work with large-scale middleware products. Webber acknowledges that while he jokes about big vendor tools, he does use them when they make sense - but, with the Guerilla approach, he adds, you're decoupling the tools from what needs to be done. That allows you to see more clearly when you do - or do not - need a vendor's solution, and that's key.


What I really appreciate about Webber is his strong focus on implementing SOA in line with business needs. I read a lot of sources about how SOA can help the business, but often they're vague about how that works. They seem to have this idea that a better IT architecture will ultimately benefit the business through agility - once it's built. He's very specific about addressing business needs from the very first SOA project.


The interview covers a lot of ground, including a message-oriented architectural style called MEST. Webber explains how MEST differs from REST and SOAP Service Description Language (SSDL).


A special thanks to SOA Digest, which published a pointer to this informative Webcast. I did experience difficulties getting it to play, but if you want, you can read a full transcript by clicking "Show all" below the text box under the video display.