Guerilla SOA Starts with Business Priorities

Loraine Lawson

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.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Aug 27, 2007 6:18 PM francis carden francis carden  says:
Thanks for the link, this interview should me a must read (compelling) for business and IT looking at SOA.It covers 2 key points. Breaking up SOA into deliverable chunks (don't take on the world attitude) and, maybe more importantly, defining what SOA needs to get that job done.. Namely a tweak to the messaging system where I have often pondered on these same weaknesses. His descriptions around MEST (not just another acronym), operations and SSDL were spot on. Reply
Nov 13, 2008 5:03 PM Kelly Shaw Kelly Shaw  says:
I know this post is quite old, but it is still timely. Gartner's recent survey citing a dramatic decrease of organizations adopting SOA for the first time is a case in point. I think it is likely that Gartner is talking about 'Big SOA' projects that have difficulty demonstrating ROI, not small, solution-centric Guerrilla SOA projects.In the past several months I've worked on three different projects that were SOA-based, but would not have been seen within IT circles as SOA projects.Guerrilla SOA can thrive when Big SOA faltes. Reply

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