SOA Obituary

SOA is dead. Long live SOA

IDC has just declared that SOA is live and kicking. Network World has quoted an IDC Vice President Ruediger Spies saying SOA market will grow by up to 25 percent worldwide by 2013.

Between 2008 and 2013, SOA spending in the Americas will expand by 24.7 percent, EMEA will see a 24 percent growth and Asia Pacific will see a 23.2 percent growth, says Spies. 

A little over a year ago, Burton Group blogger Anne Thomas Manes wrote a damning obituary of SOA.

“Except in rare situations, SOA has failed to deliver its promised benefits. After investing millions, IT systems are no better than before… The people holding the purse strings have had enough,” she wrote setting of a raging debate in the industry. 

The IDC projections ironically prove her right. The way SOA was practised – adding another expensive technological layer on top of unwieldy and discrete jigsaw IT pieces, with no improvement in sight  – is dead.

But as Manes predicted, the services-orientation of IT architecture has gained momentum in the last one year. The IT conversation has shifted to Cloud, BPM and SaaS, but these trends embody the same architectural ideals cherished by SOA – to create modular, agile and loosely coupled IT architecture which can be plugged-in at will.

Besides, delivering on the services promise, Manes wrote, SOA needs to be part of a bigger picture. And this where the SOA story has got more intriguing.

Thanks to the recession, enterprises have come under pressure to promote agility across areas of operations, not just IT. Service-Oriented Approach, an offshoot of SOA, gives them the precise frameworks and tools needed to make this transformation.

Noted blogger Joe McKendrick says SOA-style thinking is reshaping management. “The problem with SOA, they say, is that it has become too closely associated with IT. It needs to be seen for what it is -- a bona fide business philosophy,” he opined in a post recently.

A Deloitte paper, quoted by McKendrick, says Service Oriented (Business) Architecture will help enterprises build required capabilities through 'manageable, independent, interoperable pieces'.

The new thinking makes logical sense, but runs the same risk of hype and failure, which consumed SOA. The same forces, which made SOA fail in IT departments, may undermine its variants at the larger enterprise level.

Enterprises would have to have to learn from past experiences, define their goals sharply and try their own home-grown solutions to achieve them, rather than following fashionable blueprints or straitjacket solutions

A revisionist definition from tech evangelist J P Morgenthal says SOA is more of a concept than an architectural approach. On the road to adoption “…Each organization may ultimately need to tailor the general concepts into something that is different from organization to organization…” he says.

He concludes his influential post with a pertinent question: Is SOA really architecture, or is it simply a strategy for business transformation?

Whether SOA is alive or not, the debate is far from dead. It has just taken a new turn.

What do you think?

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