Serious Questions About SOA and Virtualization

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Here's a question that should give all CIOs and CTOs pause: Is the SOA-Virtualization connection a good thing?

ebizQ blogger Joe McKendrick posed that question in his SOA in Action blog this week, and I think he's pointed out a potential conundrum for enterprise IT going forward.

Both technologies, it turns out, could revolutionize IT, with SOA changing the application landscape and virtualization altering the hardware infrastructure.

You'd think that two great technologies would herald great things for IT. But as I read McKendrick's post and did a bit of my own digging, I started to wonder if these two technologies could be on a collision course that could create havoc within IT divisions.

Much of the blog post discusses what SOA and SOA's philosophy, for want of a better word, can bring to virtualization. But then the last paragraph hits you with InfoWorld's Tom Yager's take on SOA and virtualization. Yager contends that uniting the two could create "an enterprise Frankenstein of ultimately unmanageable complexity."

That got my attention.

Yager's somewhat extreme prediction doesn't seem to be widely shared, but I did find similar warnings in a CIO.com article, in which Gartner analyst Thomas Bittman discusses the cons of virtualization and SOA separately.

In general, Gartner sees virtualization as just too expensive, too premature, at this point. In this article, Bittman recommends establishing a strong data center governance plan to keep vendors from imposing their own control over your data.

News also seems to be mixed over what effect virtualization will have on data centers. While it's reducing server sprawl, it's creating problems with managing system resource management.

The CIO.com article also reports Gartner as warning that SOA and Web services, at least as part of a real-time infrastructure, are a potential "nightmare" for data centers.

Obviously, this isn't a case against adopting either technology. While Gartner is urging caution with virtualization, it should be noted that the IT research firm also says virtualization will be "the" most important technology in just three years.

And certainly I don't want to suggest these technologies won't work together, because, hello - just a journalist blogger here.

But I do think IT leaders and industry leaders should ask serious questions about how these two popular technologies - both of which aim to give IT further abstraction - will work together.

  • How will they impact your existing data integration efforts?
  • How will you manage SOA and virtualization together?
  • How will you support existing service level agreements in a more abstract environment?
  • Will your infrastructure - both virtual and application - become so complex that you can't find a problem when it happens?

Side Note: If you want to brush up on recent virtualization developments, check out IT Business Edge's new special report. And for you Microsoft devotees, fellow IT Business Edge blogger Kachina Dunn recently posted about Microsoft's virtualization efforts.