Are we too impatient with SOA?

Jack Vaughan recently pondered the fate of major technology initiatives, and wondered if SOA is going down the same path as Grid and object-oriented computing. That is, it took some time for these initiatives to come to fruition, and benefits to be delivered.

Jack Vaughan recently pondered the fate of major technology initiatives, and wondered if SOA is going down the same path as Grid and object-oriented computing. That is, it took some time for these initiatives to come to fruition, and benefits to be delivered. In the meantime, many grew too impatient and declared the methodology to be a failure. Or, as Jack points out, even changed the name -- as the initiative formerly known as "Grid" is now known as "Cloud."

Jack spoke with industry visionary Toufic Boubez about the long-term prospects of SOA. Boubez observed that technology revolutions take about 10 to 15 years to cycle. As Boubez put it:

“Now, lo and behold, we’re ten years into SOA, about the same time frame, where at the beginning everybody thought 'Alright, service orientation is going to be the next big thing in a couple years, everyone will be doing service orientation and Web services.' Where, in reality, just because of momentum and all kinds of established procedures and established mechanisms, it takes a while for big corporations and organizations to move. Another 10 to 15 years and here we are. I think we keep forgetting the time it takes for these cycles.”

Reflecting on Boubez's remarks, Jack Vaughn attributes disillusionment with SOA to the humanest of human responses - impatience and laziness:

"A lot of present disaffection with SOA is just pure laziness – a wish for instant gratification, an aversion to the real work of IT. Like the story of the silver bullet technology, you have heard the admonition that work is hard before. The savvy technologist will measure the true path of cloud computing by thinking in terms of 10 to 15 years as well. It is a good timeframe for sober SOA analysis too. Don’t give up too soon, just to jump on the next merry-go-round."

Boubez said many SOA efforts dissolved into siloed Web services projects, without an enterprise focus. He pointed out that any SOA efforts requires a solid governance structure behind it, to keep projects on track and keep the business engaged:

"People were building services willy-nilly, and developers who got their hands on a tool kit were building stuff without a long view or an upper view of things. So governance became a problem until people started realizing that we need to get a handle on that. For a variety of reasons, the IT folks need to get a handle on it because of waste--there's no reuse--as well as security issues and management issues. And the business folks realized they need to get a handle on it because of regulatory issues and because of absolute corporate governance issues."

Boubez is optimistic that SOA efforts are beginning to gain traction with governance, but warns that virtualization is another emerging initiative that will complicate future SOA projects down the road.

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