Debate rages over SOA's 'cloudy' future

Will SOA fade into WOA, or will SOA subsume WOA?

"WOA [Web-Oriented Architecture] is the route to SOA, and, along the way, we might just forget about SOA as WOA grows and gets SOA-like features. SOA is too hard to understand, and does not lend itself to people just doing it. In the end, we will forget SOA and just use WOA."

-DonnieBoy, responding to my recent post,  WOA wins hands-down over SOA in popularity contest

Will SOA fade into WOA, or will SOA subsume WOA?

A couple of posts back, I described how everyone seems to love WOA, but scratch their heads in bewilderment when it comes to SOA, a got quite a few interesting reactions.

WOA, of course, means everything from cloud computing to Software as a Service and on-demand and mashups and collaboration all other things Enterprise 2.0-ish. Everyone, even the most technophobic, seems to get what WOA means and how it works. SOA... well, even the best and brightest individuals in the industry are still trying to get their heads around what it means and doesn't mean.

What's interesting is that the worlds of WOA and SOA keep drawing closer and closer together, leading one to wonder if it won't be long before they're one in the same. As DonnieBoy pointed out, we're using more and more WOA tools, techniques, and platforms to get to where we wanted with SOA. But is WOA capable of addressing enterprise requirements in the way SOA can? Will SOA subsume WOA, or visa-versa?

While DonnieBoy said WOA will become SOA, some say SOA will turn into WOA. According to ITWorld Canada, Ron Huxter, CTO of the provincial government of Ontario, said that services will come from the cloud, and that's what SOA will be all about as well. "The issues that we’re coming into now are sourcing the actual services -- in two to three years, SOA will fade into yet another sales banner like everything else has and it will transform into software-as-a-service (SaaS)."

Others even say WOA will simply push aside SOA. Another reader, Niraj J, says the WOA phenomenon -- which makes everyone masters of their own domains -- is pushing the shared-service approach to SOA aside. In a recent post, he observes that the mantra for today's businesses seem to be "Think globally, execute globally and collaborate globally" via crowd sourcing and open source techniques:

"The collaborate aspect changes the IT organization structure yet again. Instead of having a business head for 'shared services' whose aim in life was to own everything common used in the enterprise, the lines of businesses now have the option to use crowd sourcing techniques and leverage SaaS type solutions to achieve their goals....  As a result the SOA concept of coming up with a master API that will be used by everyone is failing."

That's a subject or growing debate. Steve Bjorg, in his follow up posts, says WOA can deliver all the enterprise benefits of SOA, and then some:

WOA may sound too good to be true at first. Those who defend SOA as the 'enterprise solution' claim it is the more mature technology… unfortunately, these people are wrong. The rise in popularity of WOA is undoing the noise and bloat that SOA introduced. The truth is WOA existed first! It is what made the Web scale to billions of pageviews across a fully decentralized network of heterogenous machines, known was the Internet. A few years later, SOA was introduced as a way to fix something that was never broken. ...the fix required lots of new tools and technologies, including compilers, registries, libraries, document standards, and so forth. Not coincidentally, the companies who designed and promoted SOA were those who would benefit the most from it… the tool vendors. Heck, if a solution requires an XML appliance to scale, then it’s not part of the solution, it’s part of the problem!"

There's truly the anti-SOA view of WOA. But other observers say that maybe WOA has been part of SOA all along.  It may even be one form of any implementation that follows SOA principals. And remember, SOA is not about any particular technlogy or even approach to technology. Another reader and avid commentator, Reamon, picked up on Gartner analyst Nick Gall's observation that WOA is actually a "substyle" of SOA. It takes a service-oriented architecture to get to WOA. Reamon boiled down WOA to this simple formula:

WOA = SOA + WWW + REST

SOA, which is an architectural style, is not tied to any particular standards or formats "The complaints about SOA seem to be driven by fundamental misunderstandings or faulty assumptions," says Reamon. "SOA is not a technology. It is an architectural style... SOA is not SOAP... SOA is not WS-*... SOA does not require an ESB, registry, and XML applicance, or any other tool....  SOA is not SOAP."

Steve Bjorg elaborated on his quotes in the original article and also predicts that SOA will very much be a legacy architecture in the near future:"I predict that SOA will morph into WOA in a few years. Some remnants of the old SOA will remain and a few unlucky chumps will be tasked to maintain it somehow. A situation not unlike that of the lost souls that keep COBOL code running to this day."

Still, others feel SOA has an important role in today's and tomorrow's enterprises, and there it will stay.  As one reader, Craig Prolifics, put it:

"SOA will survive. In fact, given the down economy and decrease in overall IT spend, this is a crucial time for SOA. SOA integration projects can yield tremendous business benefits – from operational efficiencies to value-chain integration to improved customer loyalty.

"In some cases SOA enables businesses to create new, flexible business processes and accommodate shifts in workload – a scenario growing in importance given the current economy and increased industry consolidation. In other cases SOA helps break down barriers between information silos, leading to better integration between ERP, SCM, CRM, HR and Finance. This enables organizations to be more responsive to changing business priorities."

"Companies working under budget constraints and reduced headcount (And who isn’t these days?) find this kind of ROI appealing because it promises increased productivity, reduced costs, and optimized IT. SOA isn’t going anywhere. It’s finally meeting its stride."

Can WOA deliver the benefits that Craig spoke of? Stay tuned for more of this growing debate...

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