In recent posts, I've been talking about legacy systems, how certain systems seem to have lasted, and will continue to last, through the ages. Like Rocks of Gibraltar. Or the Rolling Stones.
It's time to shift gears.
Namely, that service orientation is about fluidity for short-term needs, not rock-likeness to last through the centuries. The software and systems we will be using in the future will be collections of components, brought together on almost an ad-hoc basis, to support the business processes that need to be addressed. We're talking about modular, shareable, or even disposable software.
This is an important shift of perspective. Think about it, hardware has been following this track. Many of our systems are built on commodity processor boxes (Intel, AMD) that can be quickly swapped out for upgrade, replacement, or realignment. Why can't pieces of software likewise be quickly swapped out for upgrade, replacement, or realignment?
Cape Clear's Annrai O'Toole has picked up on this theme. He cites the words of Gartner's Roy Schulte, who pointed out that in the past, most applications were "built to last" -- their longevity and robustness was the most prized features about the application. However, nowadays, the most important thing about an application is that it is "built to change."
O'Toole says that SOA is the software industry's attempt to finally align IT with the business. My own opinion is that SOA is the software industry's attempt to keep up with the latest "hot" trend to stay in business.
But I think O'Toole is right on the money when he points out that "suddenly we don't think of applications anymore -- we think only of services. We think about how those services can be orchestrated together using BPEL (Business Process Execution Language) to solve a business problem. You are therefore left with the conclusion that maybe, just maybe, SOA and BPEL will be the drivers for the next major growth cycle in the software business. Using services to enable rapid change is probably the most important trend for the next five years."