LEGO blocks and SOA: is the singularity near?

Maybe the SOA-as-LEGO-block analogy is backwards. Could it be that LEGO blocks are becoming more like our IT systems, versus the other way around?

I just saw a demonstration of a fairly intelligent, spider-like critter on CBS's David Letterman last night that was built from LEGO blocks. (One of LEGO's Mindstorm bots, to be exact.) The woman demonstrating the spider-bot for David said it was equipped with computer software components that controlled its movements.

Hmmm...  Maybe I got it all wrong. Could it be that LEGO blocks are becoming more like our IT systems, versus the other way around, as we've been discussing and debating so furiously on this blogsite?

Jeff Nolan also picked up on this singularity, and made some astute observations (does he make any other kind?) on our recent discussions and debates around the LEGO block-SOA analogy:

"You really can’t spend 5 minutes in this business without someone saying 'it’s like LEGO blocks, you just plug them together!' and for the most part nobody ever objects because the truth is that we all WANT it to be that easy. Getting there is another issue…"

Here’s why it’s never going to be that easy, Jeff continues:

"LEGO blocks don’t have to pass information between each other and there is no requirement that they be sequenced in any particular order. In other words, the beauty of LEGO blocks is that they are fully compartmentalized and you can click two 2×2 blocks to a 2×4 and it works the same way was two 2×4s, and if you want to use a pair of blue vs. 1 green and 1 red, well that’s cool."

Jeff observes the fact that Mindstorm LEGOs are indeed complex systems in and of themselves, but notes that LEGO doesn't have to worry about upgrading a legacy customer base to its new high-tech bot world. (Hey, what about me?)

And, there's the fact that Mindstorm is a $250 LEGO package, Jeff points out -- "so maybe it’s looking more like enterprise software after all?"

Gary So of WebMethods also picked up on this discussion, also observing that LEGO blocks have grown into more complex and sophisticated systems than they used to be. "The days of LEGO as simply a collection of blocks of different size and color are long gone," Gary wrote, observing that the company has moved to providing specialized, limited run editions. "Today's LEGO sets have specific themes and highly specialized parts." 

The result is an inventory nightmare, with different types of pieces all over the place. "LEGO doesn't necessarily provide all that much reusability and keeping track of things can be a nightmare," Gary continues. "But you can build interesting things quickly and, once you figure out the mechanics, it's the same process over and over again.  Plus, if you really want to, the standard interface means you can mix-and-match components.  Hmmm... sounds just like SOA to me."

In the interest of full disclosure, LEGO did not pay me to blog about their products on this site. However, LEGOs were my hands-down favorite present from Santa, many Christmases ago. And still would be today, actually (but don't tell anybody).


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