When the worlds of SOA and Web 2.0 collide

When the worlds of SOA and Web 2.0 collide

Summary: Noted business and IT forward-thinker John Hagel wrote a detailed piece yesterday about what he calls the "highly dysfunctional gap" between SOA and Web 2.0. And it's true, there are few worlds in the IT industry that seem more opposite from each other, yet are more strangely intertwined, than SOA and Web 2.0. What will happen?

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TOPICS: Enterprise 2.0
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Noted business and IT forward-thinker John Hagel wrote a detailed piece yesterday about what he calls the "highly dysfunctional gap" between SOA and Web 2.0.  And it's true, there are few worlds in the IT industry that seem more opposite from each other, yet are more strangely intertwined, than SOA and Web 2.0.

Yet these two cultures are generally failing to cross-pollinate like they should, despite potentially extraordinary opportunities.As most of you know, SOA or Service-Oriented Architecture, is a corporate means of normalizing the aspects of IT systems to make them more shareable, rewirable, dynamic, and integrated.  Web 2.0 is a similar, but more populist and social concept, that also involves in its own way the turning of applications into platforms that can be reused, shared, and aggregated.  For its own part, SOA has stodgy-sounding composite applications, while Web 2.0 has a virtually identical concept with the much hipper moniker: mashups, a reference to the musical phenomenon it so much resembles.

Hagel notes that these two worlds seem quite far apart, despite being practically related in their technology genes, though certainly far from being identical twins.  For one, SOA is technically more complex and has higher-order concepts, like orchestration, while Web 2.0 has social, presentation, ad hoc organization,and participatory aspects that SOA generally doesn't address at all.   As a result, as Hagel kindly observes, I've noted in the past that SOA and Web 2.0 practically complete each other.  Yet these two cultures are generally failing to cross-pollinate like they should, despite potentially "extraordinary opportunities."  Why and how to fix it?  Hagel has some thoughts about this:

What is required to break this SOA logjam?  Two things.  First, Web 2.0 technologists need to work on connecting directly with line executives of large enterprises without trying to go through the IT departments. Second, they should avoid the temptation to present grand visions of new architectures and concentrate instead on starting points where these technologies can deliver near-term business impact. (This should not be too hard since by nature Web 2.0 technologists are bootstrappers and hackers.)

Of course, the invariably insightful opinion-maven Nicholas Carr noted Hagel's post too, and had a thing or two to say as well, taking a position that I'm increasingly coming around to as well, namely that SaaS might be the way this all happens in the enterprise, more than through the social tools.  Though that's not entirely clear yet either.  Anyway, Carr says in response to Hagel:

That makes sense - but only if you assume that Web 2.0 collaboration tools, like wikis and tagging, will actually pay off within businesses in a broad and substantial way. There are, as I wrote previously, reasons for caution here. If Web 2.0 technologies fail to fulfill the promises being made for them, they could end up slowing rather than accelerating the transition to the next generation of business software. My own sense is that it may be software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers, more than the Web 2.0 crowd, that will end up breaking the logjam, not only through their discrete application services but through integration platforms like Salesforce.com's AppExchange.

ZDNet's very own Joe McKendrick was recently spotted wondering if SOA has jumped the proverbial shark. And I just read about venture investor Peter Rip wondering something very similar about Web 2.0.  The reality is that both notions represent singular and hugely valuable concepts that have a large significance to those that build and use them.  While the terms might be tired, evolving, being reinvented or whatever, the fact is that the innovation on the Web is pouring over the firewall of the enterprise and remaking it.  Slowly in some cases, but much faster in others.  Web 2.0 seems to be overtaking SOA in subtle, yet telling ways.

Entertprise Mashups and the Global SOA 

The funny thing is, it's the intangibles like trust and not technology that matter the most in both worlds, and that often is the biggest holdup for moving things forward.  And I'm talking lack of trust as barrier.  As in not trusting the data in a socially constructed database, not trusting that your Web service supplier will be there when you need them and will stay in business, or even not trusting SaaS given that it's no more reliable than the network cable snaking into your office.  These are some of the bigger issues that Web 2.0 software could actually exacerbate before it helps, and likely converges with, the world of SOA.

But if the intangible concerns with highly federated data and software get surmounted, expect to see the proliferation of just-in-time enterprise mashups, and the tools to create them, for solving situational business problems and supporting dynamic business processes.  This is one of the biggest potential benefits of the merging of Web 2.0 and SOA.  But only if software architects and designers find the right ways of adding critical enterprise context and social utility to the resulting mix.  As he notes, this will unleash the enormous opportunity that Hagel observes.

Is quickly delivering incremental near-term solutions from the bottom up the answer?  Yes, I think Hagel probably has it right there.  What do you think?

Topic: Enterprise 2.0

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14 comments
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  • Wow - Who cares?

    Web 2.0 is a myth and SOA is DOA.
    Roger Ramjet
    • Realism, thank you

      Roger -

      You just saved me an hour of typing, thank you. I'm worn out from explaining time and time again to the ZDNet blogging crew that these ideas are totally disconnected from business reality... that's why my comment rates have dropped to nearly zero...

      J.Ja
      Justin James
      • Sorry, can't agree

        I've worked as a consultant for several client companies doing very real things with SOA. At this point (and quite possibly forever) it tends to only get traction in large enterprises.

        Whether it is worth what it costs is another question, but I can't agree that it is "disconnected from the business reality"

        As for Web 2.0, it too is real, just massively over hyped. For the most part, all it means is AJAX based web applications (e.g. GMail, Google Maps)

        Rick Borchert
        rborchert
        • Agreed, "mashups, smashups"

          Most organizations are never going to be the size that is required for the economies of SOA to be justified.

          I should keep a log of the pontifications I've read here on ZDNet in the past ten years of those revolutionary panaceas that have been prognosticated versus those that have truly come to pass.

          Manure mostly.
          Nobody_really
  • Much like "Barrier", "culture" is improperly used.

    As there is no "gigahertz barrier" (it's a [b]milestone[/b]), to say a business has culture is malarkey. Unless it's akin to bacteria, but who wants to go there? :D

    Culture is about style, art, intellectualism. That cannot be applied to business because business is about one thing and one thing only: Making profits. And when's the last time you saw a wealthy artist? Never. Most of them are dead. And a wealthy actor? I know of none. There are lots of celebrities, but convince me they know how to [i]act[/i] and I'll giggle like a girl who's just eaten too much sugar candy if anyone tries.

    Indeed, for Tom Cruise to originally say how he had to pry himself away from little Suri just to be in Itality but is now nonstop hawking his latest petty flick (Mission Impossible III: I can be a father too"?) just shows what a poor (and petty) actor he truly is. :D The guy is mega-rich, surely having the time to [b]be[/b] a human father to his human wife and human offspring is a bit more important?! Most people HAVE to work despite having a new baby crawling around... and they want to be with the baby yet can't. Sigh...
    HypnoToad72
  • SOA and Web 2.0 belong to different functions in an enterprise

    Reading the above post brought back my time as an solution architect with a Large Chip manufacturing company. The reason that SOA is taking it own sweet time to give benefits has nothign to do with the concept of SOA but everything to do with the turf war between different functions within an organisation. In my opinion ( which is similar to a lot of bloggers at ZDNet) is that SOA and WOA are both needed very much in an Enterprise. We need to look at who should be responsible for what though.

    SOA is more of an infrastructural change at an enterprise, with all the vendor Apps and infrastructural requriements like security to be taken care off. SOA is a requirements for tomorrows enterprise to grow in a steady manner. WOA on the other hand is all about agility and hence should be managed by the the business function itself. Now it may come as a surprise to many people, but IT organisation within an enterprise will NEVER be as agile as required by the business function.

    So the way i see the picture evolving, SOA to create base infrastructure of services and Business function led teams to create agile MASHUPs of these services using tear down front ends. Best of both worlds - Agility with Solid foundation.

    But before this happens, the bigwigs in the IT organisation will have to let go of a significant aspect of the App development and focus on productivity rather than politics within the organisation under the garb of governance.
    Wanderer_IT
  • Sand castles

    Actually sand castles is a bit too concrete, let's make it castles in the air. And yes the gap is a large, but it's mainly between spin and reality.

    Oh and btw, I think they are called mashups because of the code not any musical phenomenon - have you even tried to read any of it?
    TonyMcS
  • Web 2.0 in the enterprise is not via the browser

    I believe that web 2.0 for the enterprise will take place in the enterprise via Smart Client applications. We have written an ERP application called Interprise Suite that is a desktop application that can connect to data via the internet. It is far faster and more useable than any Ajax application that is coming down the road.

    Case in point: Outlook is basically a desktop application ? Outlook web Access is an Ajax application. Given the choice ? how many people prefer OWA? I?ve never met one. Fact is, people want ALL of the power of their desktop application AND the ability to work offline.

    I agree with Microsoft on the future of Enterprise applications?

    "We believe in a hybrid model where customers can have the choice to deploy [on-site], hosted and in a combined manner," said James Utzschneider, general manager for strategy at the Redmond, Wash., company. "Support for Web services protocols enables many of these scenarios." March 27, 2006 http://www.eweek.com/article2/0,1895,1942512,00.asp

    But Interprise Suite has all of that ready now. It can work on the LAN / Internet or any combination. Does not require you to host your data in ?cyberspace?. Caches frequently used data locally, can access data in multiple CPU threads, includes a real ?word like? word processor (writely is a joke). It also uses Mashup for faxing, credit card charging, etc.
    interprisesolutions
  • SOA might Include WOA

    SOA, as IBM (who currently is providing most of the SOA software and is the partner iin most of the customer projects)defines it includes many of the things that this article thinks of as Web 2.0 or WOA. For example, Maships show up regularly as part of the implementation strategy for creating SOA applications. And IBM agrees that many SOA projects will be led by Business Executives, with their need for fast results, rather than by the IT department.

    For this to work, an enormous cultural change must occur. IT has to see itself as serving the needs of the business and the business has to trust the skills and expertise of IT and allow it to act on its behalf. In many enterprises today, the organizational culture is quite different, with business executives believing that projects must be done out of the view of IT in order to succeed and IT believing that users are incompetent because their competence is in some other area of the business rather than information technology. Such cultural changes can occur, but only if we understand the issues and convince senior management to employ its leadership to urge such changes.
    amywohl
    • RE: When the worlds of SOA and Web 2.0 collide

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      AlexSerdar
  • Going to the Line Exec vs IT dept

    You smashed the nail on the head in saying we need to be going to the line executives vs the IT guys. This is probably the oldest axiom in sales - if you're not talking to the decision maker (not the influencer, the maker) than you're wasting your time. IT guys know what they know. They can't make a decision. But when the boss says "make it happen," they have no choice and will probably be happy as a result.
    www.danmosqueda.blogspot.com
    007baf
  • RE: When the worlds of SOA and Web 2.0 collide

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