SOA and E2.0 have a very common goal, in that the purpose of both is to detach applications from underlying technology, whether it’s on the back-end system or the front-end interface. In this instance, desktops are an enterprise’s biggest expense and biggest management headache. By moving services out to the cloud, E2.0 promises to liberate companies and end-users from the constant and expensive upgrade cycle for both hardware and software.
Bob Buffone, chief architect for Nexaweb Technologies, illustrated this commonality in a recent article, observing that while SOA applications come out of the back-end systems, Rich Internet applications (RIAs) promise to bring greater functionality to front-end environments. “AJAX, if it taught us anything, it taught us that the desktop environment was richer than previously thought; you just need to know how to use what you have,” he wrote.
Bob observes that E2.0 brings together RIA, SOA, and legacy systems to deliver business-critical applications over the Web. Not everyone — not by a long shot — has 2.20 GHz Windows Vista and XP workstations running across their enterprise with the latest edition of Firefox browser installed.
Where can E2.0 make a difference? The desktop is often the last great barrier to effective SOA adoption. In fact, Bob points out, there are many companies still running Windows 95 machines. Here’s his ephiphany in that regard:
“I sat on a panel a few months back, and everyone was talking about how great AJAX is, then one person raised his hand and brought the panel back to earth. He was working for a company building out an SOA infrastructure and trying to deliver applications to a chain of tire companies in the midwest…. they were mostly using Win95 and IE4+. In order to overcome the problem of the desktop, the company had been tossing around the idea of shipping a new computer with every application. But even this solution has problems: Who will maintain a new system? Where will it be located in the shop? Does it need to be ruggedized? Then there is the plain expense of the computer eating away margins. A better solution is to take advantage of the software infrastructure already in place.”
I've heard of a company -- very successful financially -- that just finally migrated its desktops from DOS. While it may be an extreme example, it illustrates the amazing variety of technology types and generations that exist out there. Vendors shouldn't assume that everyone is equipped with state-of-the-art systems, and anxiously await the next upgrade of bells and whistles.