Get online with SOA masters

SOA evangelist Miko Matsumura hopes to engage IT pros in an online community for sharing SOA best practices and collective problem solving.

newsmaker Miko Matsumura is one step closer to addressing the shortage in SOA (service-oriented architecture) skills.

The SOA evangelist says more enterprises are embracing this service approach to build systems faster using reusable parts, but the bad news is: talent supply lags demand.

To address this looming industry-wide issue, a new online resource center called SOA Master Class Online was launched this week.

Sponsored by webMethods and SOA analyst firm ZapThink, the SOA Master Class Online is also supported by SOA experts David Linthicum of the Linthicum Group and Neil Ward-Dutton of Macehiter Ward-Dutton.

Matsumura is the site's "host" and also a well-known Java evangelist. ZDNet Asia caught up with him over an e-mail interview to find out more about this new community portal.

Currently the vice president of SOA products at webMethods, Matsumura hopes to see more IT professionals take advantage of what the online resource center has to offer.

SOA Master Class Online provides users with a formalized curriculum for advancing their SOA knowledge and experience, including topics such as SOA Foundation and SOA Governance. It also serves as an online community for sharing best practices and problem solving. The site includes Web seminars, video content, syndicated blogs and discussion forums, and provides opportunities to interact with SOA experts.

Due to the pervasive impact of SOA, Matsumara said, "all IT professionals will arguably need to secure some level of SOA mastery". And this, he added, is particularly important in the Asia-Pacific region as "you have a real opportunity to drive this adoption".

Q. How many members does this resource center have now?
Matsumura: Ah...looking at my screen, there seems to be about 20 online visitors right now. In truth, it's too early to say what kind of success we'll see with the site. However, we're off to a promising start as we've already seen hundreds of downloads of the Infravio registry from users that simply stumbled across the site prior to our announcement. (Infravio, a provider of SOA registry and governance applications, was acquired by webMethods in September 2006 for about US$38 million in cash.)

How does one become a member?
While some of our higher-level courses and features require registration, everything on the site is free, including the Infravio download that we're offering to help users get acclimated to SOA lifecycle governance. If you want to participate in the community, then you are a member--it's that simple

Is this geared more to vendors, service providers or end users?
SOA Master Class Online is ultimately focused on individuals as it offers them a self-paced environment for enhancing their SOA Mastery. In regards to their specific affiliation, we anticipate that most visitors will be end users. However, we took great pains to establish this as an independent site where analysts and other thought leaders are welcome. As such, if a vendor is committed to improving our collective knowledge of SOA, they can participate as a thought leader.

Coupled with the fact that so much global development now occurs in the region, Asia-Pacific has the opportunity to really take a leadership role in the deployment of SOA.
--Miko Matsumura, vice president, SOA products, webMethods

How will you maintain a vendor-neutral curriculum?
We explicitly state on the site that SOA Master Class Online consists of two different kinds of content: vendor-neutral content and clearly labeled vendor content. We, of course, welcome the user community to point out if the content on the site diverges from this editorial model.

All of the 100-level courses are intended to be vendor-neutral, the 200-level courses allow users to be "hands on" with a product. Since we currently are offering the webMethods Infravio X-Registry as the featured "hands on" product, the 200-level courses on governance clearly belongs in the labeled vendor content category. What the SOA Master Class Online site offers us is an alternative way to interact with our users from the webMethods.com site and that's something that I'm not going to jeopardize for a short-term gain.

Do students end up with a professional SOA certification? If yes, can you give me more details on this certification program?
Our initial focus is to simply help users get started toward gaining SOA Master--essentially establishing the foundation for subsequent study. In regards to formal certification, I'm suggesting that users consider the Licensed ZapThink Architect program, which was specifically designed to provide this type of accreditation.

On a related note, this education offered by the site can also help users take best advantage of the product-specific training and certification already being offered. For example, webMethods offers a very structured curriculum for becoming a webMethods Certified Architect, and I'm sure that most other vendors offer similar training.

How tight is the talent crunch for SOA? How many SOA qualified professionals are there in the world and in the Asia-Pacific?
I don't have a specific headcount but I'd say that no matter what the number is, it's not enough! Due to the pervasive impact of SOA, all IT professionals will arguably need to secure some level of SOA mastery.

This is particularly important in the Asia-Pacific region as you have a real opportunity to drive this adoption. For example, export-based economies have long made interoperability a key issue, which is the problem that SOA was created to resolve. Many enterprises, due to their relative youth, also lack experience in some of the legacy IT issues that are more pervasive in the United States and Europe, which gives these organizations the equivalent of a clean sheet of paper to start from in regards to their innovation. Coupled with the fact that so much global development now occurs in the region, Asia-Pacific has the opportunity to really take a leadership role in the deployment of SOA.

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