Silver lining 2: now may be the best time of all for SOA startups

Where are all the SOA startups?  We already know that much of the Class of 2000 has been gobbled up into larger, in many cases, less-SOA-centric, entities.

Where are all the SOA startups?  We already know that much of the Class of 2000 has been gobbled up into larger, in many cases, less-SOA-centric, entities. (See list, here.)

But where is the next generation of SOA startups coming from? Does such a thing even exist anymore? Dave Linthicum, who knows a thing or two about startups, looked beyond the doom-and-gloom headlines to inform us that there is no better time to start a SOA startup than the present time.

"The idea is that when it does not seem like a good time to start a company, typically that is the best time to start a company.  In this case you’re looking to bring in second-generation technology, or technology created out of the lessons learned in the first.  Thus, you have a better understanding of the problems at hand, and how SOA technology can solve those problems.   There are huge opportunities here, as long as you make the right moves."

Dave makes an extremely compelling case. As he puts it, "now is a time to start something new and out-innovate both the behemoths and the old maids.  There are plenty of good ideas left, trust me."

Agreed. Companies are crying out for new approaches to governance and integration that don't cost an arm and a leg.

Dave also rightly asserts that thanks to Web 2.0 and cloud computing, a new company can be formed fro a mere fraction of the cost that it took several years ago. "The days of needing $10 million, minimum, to make any sort of impact in the market are long past.  Today, virtual companies, cloud computing, and the other cost-effective tools make it possible to start and run a company at a fraction of the burn of just a few years ago.  There are many examples of these types of companies in the Web 2.0 space, but not many in the SOA space."

Let me add that I'm not sure how many SOA tool providers we're likely to see emerge in the coming years, no matter what the state of the economy. The more likely scenario emerging is cloud-based companies that use service-oriented architecture as their approach to building and integrating systems.

For example, I think the new generation of cloud-based companies that are emerging (let's call them the Class of 2010) need SOA to better integrate with customers and partners.

In a recent article, Mike Kavis describes how Service-now.com, begun in 2004 as an on-demand IT Service Management solution provider, launched a cloud-based offering that combines the best of everything -- ITIL v3 with Web 2.0 technology and SOA -- to "provide a rich user experience to address a firm's problem management needs." For Fred Luddy, CEO of Service-now.com, SOA was the only logical way to achieve the vision of his budding startup.

Startups may even have an advantage over established organizational cultures, since they can start from scratch in a service-oriented fashion, Mike says.

And for Service-now.com, SOA means extreme competitive advantage. Luddy started the company in 2004 with the vision on an underlying architecture that is "simple, approachable, configurable, and easy to integrate" and had to be as "restless and stateless as possible." (No pun on REST intended here, I'm sure!)

The only challenge for Service-now.com is integrating with partners who do not have SOA in place yet.  "They have had to write several adapters for partners to provide a seamless integration," Mike reports. For example, "integrating with HP OpenView or Tivoli Enterprise Console required that Service-now.com first create a SOA layer on top of the legacy code before being able to move forward with the integration."

However, when partners or customers are also SOA enabled, integration flies. A recent integration with Salesforce.com, for example, only took one week, Luddy reports.

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