Anne Thomas Manes: SOA can be resurrected, here's how

SOA as we knew it may have died, but organizations still desperately need service orientation

SOA may have its detractors, but done right, it lays the groundwork for a new service-oriented paradigm going forward.

I'm at this year's International SOA Symposium in Rotterdam, and the prevailing theme is "Next-Gen" SOA, in which we see service-orientation emerge from its bout with the skeptics to take a stronger role within the enterprise.

Thomas Erl, the conference organizer and prolific author on SOA topics, launched the event, noting that we are moving into a period of Next-Generation SOA, with the foundation of principles and practices being laid within many entreprises.

Next up was Anne Thomas Manes of Burton Group, who declared in a post at the beginning of the year that "SOA" -- at least as we knew it -- was "dead." However, the second part of Anne's post was "Long Live Services," which is the theme that she picked up on in her keynote address.

"Business wasn't really interested in buying something called 'SOA," she declared, adding that in her own research, fewer than 10% of companies have seen significant business value in their efforts.

However, that is not to diminish the importance of service oriented architecture. "The average IT organization is in a mess," she says. "The average business has 20 to 30 core capabilities. Why do they need 2,000 applications to support those 20-30 capabilities?"

"We should be service orienting everything we do," she contends. What's getting in the way is the feeling that an "SOA program" needs to be launched to get there, she states. "We have an opportunity at this point to resurrect SOA. We need a different approach, one based on architectural principles."

Anne also observed that current cloud computing initiatives bear a striking resemblance to SOA efforts. "All the discussions I hear about cloud are the same discussions we had about cloud four to five years ago," she says. "How are applications in the cloud going to talk to the applications back home without intrinsic interoperability?"

I also had the opportunity to lead a panel discussion later in the day, joined by Anne, along with Microsoft's John Devadoss (great to finally meet you in person, John!), Stefan Tilkov, and Clemen Utschig-Utschig of Oracle.  Anne further elaborated on her thinking behind the "Dead" post, emphasizing her point that both end-user organizations and vendors are still too wrapped up in the idea of delivering some type of "SOA" package, versus delivering agility and flexibility. However, she noted, "Everything we do should be service oriented."

Stefan Tilkov agreed with Anne on that point, but took issue on whether cloud computing represents some new phase of SOA. Cloud represents a different type of functionality and best practices, he emphasized.

I'm also part of the SOA Manifesto Working Group, which is meeting at the Symposium to draft a set of overarching principles to guide SOA efforts. We expect to announce the final document at the end of the conference -- I'll keep you posted.

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