Read a full transcript of the podcast.
Welcome to a special BriefingsDirect presentation, a podcast created from a recent webinar with Interarbor Solutions Principal Analyst Dana Gardner and Cape Clear Software CEO Annrai O'Toole. This sponsored webinar presents a Services Oriented Architecture (SOA) market perspective by Dana, followed by comments by Annrai, and some questions from the webinar audience.
Here are some excerpts:
SOA is never going to have much meaning for the average consumer in the streets, but it does have a lot of meaning for large enterprises. We are here today to discuss what SOA means to business users and enterprises. As Dana outlined, it is a kind of struggle because we can approach a business user and say, “SOA gives you more agile applications.” They ask, “What precisely does more agile applications mean?”
We need to do a better job on this. If you start reading all the stuff in the blogosphere about SOA, it is really techies talking to techies; it is all about how you adopt SOA and the architectural approaches to adopting SOA. At Cape Clear a lot of our content is focused on IT guys, which is correct, but we in the industry have the onus on us to do a better job of explaining this to business users.
The real force behind SOA is a transformative activity, both for the technologists in the IT department as well as for how IT is conceived, perceived, and used by the businesses. This has been an ongoing issue for many years, if not decades. At this point we have quite a bit of buy-in around SOA from the technologists. What we see mainly, however, is SOA use behind firewalls and within fairly vertical applications, within a defined business process activity.
SOA has soft advantages, but I think it has great benefits in terms of risk reduction and of meeting opportunity rather than fearing opportunity. It is a defensive and offensive weapon, both inside and outside of the firewall, and it bridges the past and the future while encouraging organizational transformation -- not just IT transformation but business transformation.
One of the topics that’s gained a lot of attraction recently is this whole notion of SOA governance, whatever that means. It is a great term. If you dig into it and if you look at a lot of what the products today are offering in terms of SOA governance, it is about IT governance. But it is essentially a workflow system for IT, to make sure we’ve done the correct designs, to make sure we are going through the right development steps, to make sure we are following the right checklist in terms of deploying things and so on. So, it is a workflow to make sure that IT is doing the right thing.
That’s interesting, but it is not much use for business users. Business users, when they think about SOA governance, they want to have some notion that they can understand the set of services and what they’re doing, and just get more transparency into what IT is actually doing. To that end, we at Cape Clear, we’ve talked a bit about this notion of a SOA wiki. I mean a wiki is a fantastic way of communicating information in a semi-structured way.
A lot of the information that business users want about services is pretty semi-structured; they want to understand what services we are running today, they want to see high level pictures of them, and they want to comment on them and say, “It’ll be really great if you could do this rather than the other ...” They want an easy way to do that. They want to see nice pictures, maybe of business flow diagrams that go behind them. In fact, we see the SOA wiki in Cape Clear terms as a metaphor for how you deliver the next-generation of business tools.
[Use of SOA in] SaaS for a lot of cost reasons and efficiencies -- and in use adoption -- is doing really well. There is a new Salesforce.com-breed that has done extremely well there. [In December] we announced our partnership with Workday. They have a whole new take on ERP applications based on the hosted model. They are embedding our software, along with other companies. So there is a whole range of SaaS applications that are turning to SOA to provide the kind of back-end integrations between the SaaS and existing applications that customers already have. SOA is already playing a very important part in pairing the next generation of business applications.
SOA is ... is really blurring the line between the underlying middleware infrastructure and the sets of business applications. The clearest example of this is Oracle Fusion. Oracle is spending a ton of money in increasing the Fusion middleware line and they are not doing it because they want to find new middleware; not really.
Oracle Fusion is an application strategy, and the only way that Oracle is able to deliver a unified set of applications from all the things they have acquired is by integrating them together around Oracle Fusion. Oracle is very clear about this. If you read all the documentation or the messages that they are sending, Oracle Fusion is an application strategy. That is very important, because the infrastructure (the middleware stuff that we have all been involved with for years and years) is really getting more and more powerful. And so that’s really making this infrastructure into things that people can really build, can easily build applications, on top of.
I recently had a conversation with a Gartner analyst about how they describe the whole SOA space and the ESB space. They were saying that there were some conversations going on inside Gartner about the fact that they might change the definition for this and bolt the stuff into business processes management (BPM).
At first she recoiled against that saying, but the more you think about SOA, the more you realize that it is just about helping people understand, and making those business processes more transparent and more open to change. We here at Cape Clear see this forcefully with our customers. Just yesterday we announced a business activity monitoring (BAM) solution with the Cape Clear ESB. We are doing this because when people get an ESB installed, it gives them a perfect opportunity for the ESB to power a BAM for the dashboards, so they can understand what is going on in the business process.
SOA promotes total excellence over subset excellence and fosters change management as a core competency. It also allows for constant process refinement; things do not get locked in and then set into a monolithic and static hierarchy, they are constantly being changed and improved. The ultimate goal is to be able to attain many of these things with overall reduced cost of capital and in the cost of ongoing maintenance and support.