Santa's Little SOA Secret: Great IT Staff or Elf Magic?


It's Christmas, and even if you don't celebrate it, there's a good chance you've got a day off. Since you're reading this particular blog, that can only mean one thing: The same question is plaguing you that's plaguing me.

How does Santa's IT staff do it? How do they manage to ensure Santa knows who has been naughty or nice and that there's "A scooter for Jimmy, a dolly for Sue - the kind that will even say, 'How do you do?'"

I've been up all night researching it, because such is my dedication to you and integration. Unfortunately, no one seems to know how the IT elves do it, but I have found a few very good theories and rumors about how it's done.

First, there are a few assumptions we can safely make about the challenges the little dudes and dudettes at the North Pole face:

  1. They are dealing with lots of legacy systems. I mean, we're talking more legacy systems than IBM's basement here.
  2. Santa is a master of efficiency-hey, around the world in one night since at least the 17th century, and possibly earlier. At one point, he managed this primarily while riding a goat-now that's efficient. Therefore, we can assume that Santa would be highly interested in new technologies that would create even higher levels of efficiency. So, it's a safe bet that the IT elves are constantly being challenged to introduce new technologies.
  3. Whenever new meets old, you know there's going to be integration problems.

As I said, no one's been willing to break Santa's veil of silence and reveal what really happens-although, as a journalist, I suspect there are a number of consultants and analysts who know more, but aren't talking. (Could it be that Santa has threatened them with the Naughty List if they shared what they knew about Santa's IT workshop? We may never know for sure.)

But there are a number of people who have hypothesized about what happens at the pole. Most recently, David Linthicum-who, by the way, was looking for a new job this fall and took off from posting suspiciously early this year-wrote a piece, "What If Santa did SOA?"

Linthicum outlined what he thought it would take to create an agile and adaptive North Pole IT architecture, including:

  1. RFID tags for toys-really, a no-brainer for Santa.
  2. Nearly real-time supply chain management
  3. Moving hot and energy-hogging data centers to the cloud.

Linthicum theorizes that SOA could help with each of these initiatives. You can read his full post for details, but since I focus on integration, here's what he said about that in regard to the supply chain:

"By leveraging an SOA, the points of integration to other enterprises are easily built out from architecture, as is the ability to consume and produce information as needed to extend the reach of core business processes, such as toy production, to other companies that participate in that process. In essence moving them to a nearly real-time supply chain."

Linthicum isn't the only one to suspect Santa might be find a service-oriented architecture helpful.


Remember when I said Santa had more legacy systems than anyone had seen outside IBM's basement? Coincidentally, (or perhaps not), IBM's own VP of SOA & WebSphere Marketing, Strategy and Channels, Sandy Carter, wrote last year about Santa as the original SOA Architect


"Everybody knows that SANTA is an acronym for the North Pole's SOA approach: Strategic Architecture, Not Tactical Achievements. Not only has Santa mastered the creation of a successful SOA, he's also the ideal employee because he gets the job done, is a well respected leader with longevity and experience, and is satisfied with a cookies and milk end-of-year bonus."

Hmmm. Could it be that SOA actually came from the North Pole? After all, no one can in the everyday working world can really define it, and no one's claimed credit for creating the concept-and some say it goes back years. Maybe that's why it's so hard for analysts like Anne Thomas Manes to find a true example of a successful SOA. Maybe it requires a bit of that old Elf magic to work.