In a recent opinion piece at SandHill.com, John Hagel, author of the forthcoming book The Only Sustainable Edge, argues that SOA is generating tangible benefits in the marketplace. However, he worries that the "fragmented" implementation of such efforts could undermine its momentum.
"The most striking element of the Web services technology adoption process is the extent to which it is being driven by non-technology line business executives, thanks in large part to this powerful economic value proposition," writes Hagel. "The business benefits have led to widespread adoption of the technology across a broad range of industries, geographies and sizes of enterprises."
Nevertheless, he thinks much could be done to drive SOA success much farther."We are seeing a much more fragmented adoption of Web service technology due to the absence of strong architectural leadership. I.T. departments have, by and large, embraced a service-oriented architectural vision, but they have had a hard time linking this vision to a pragmatic migration path that builds upon the near-term deployment of Web services technology," he adds. "In many cases, I.T. shops are drawing up detailed architectural blueprints but failing to link these efforts to the near-term deployments of the technology."
Hagel encourages us to see the big picture. "The risk is that companies will reap near-term benefits from rapid deployment of Web services technology, but fail to harness the longer-term opportunities created by migration to a much more flexible enterprise-wide (or even inter-enterprise) service-oriented architectures," says Hagel. "If were not careful, we will see meta-spaghetti piled on top of the spaghetti code we see in so many enterprises today."
He is also concerned thatCIOs will fail to design SOAs beyond the enterprise itself -- with boundary spanning collaboration in mind. "In many respects, this is understandable the natural evolution of IT architectures has been from the inside-out, starting with the centralized glass house, moving out to departments and eventually integrating the desktop and, somewhat awkwardly, reaching out to key business partners," he says. "But this approach also misses the real potential of SOAs. SOAs are uniquely equipped to deal with distributed, heterogeneous computing environments without a centralized point of control, so they have a unique value in addressing the challenges of coordinating activity across enterprise boundaries."
Finally,Hagel encourages CIOs"to approach architecture from the outside-in starting with the challenging issues of orchestrating IT resources across enterprise boundaries and then addressing the easier issues of orchestrating IT resources within enterprises boundaries. In fact, this outside-in approach is more consistent with the adoption pattern of Web services technology that, in contrast to the expectations of the technologys evangelists, has actually been used most widely at the edges of enterprises to connect with business partners rather than inside the firewall."