Bray: SOA too complex; 'just vendor BS'

Bray: SOA too complex; 'just vendor BS'

Summary: XML creator says simplicity is golden; but SOA isn't simple.


XML co-founder Tim Bray posted his response to a question he was asked at a recent conference, “What do you think we should do about SOA?”

He notes that, "weirdly, nobody had asked me before, and I could find only one answer: 'Don’t do anything. SOA may have meant something once but it’s just vendor bulls*** now.'"

Wow. Bray is suggesting that vendors have hijacked the set of initatives intended to make our jobs and systems simpler. And, in the process, brought us more complexity. Interesting that he advocates doing nothing about SOA right now -- many are saying 'do something, anything, just get started!'

Agreed, there is far too much hype around SOA, to the point where the term almost isn't being taken seriously. Yes, the bullsugar is really piling up higher and deeper. But SOA does offer a simpler, standardized way to surface and integrate back-end applications, while at the same time achieving reuse avoiding duplication of effort across the enterprise. Ironically, if successfully deployed, SOA is anti-vendor serum -- that could free companies from vendor lock-in and forced upgrades.

Bray's explanation for his dramatic pronouncement: "Looking back, what happened was, certain software architects were uncomfortable with the framing that goes with the words 'Web services'; maybe because people think anything with 'Web' in the name should be simple and lightweight and easy to set up. Thus SOA, which is so much more Enterprisey."

"Me, I want to go the other way. The crucial point is that Web-like things should be simple and lightweight and easy to set up; so I think the 'Web' part of 'Web services' is more important than the 'services' part."

Bray then goes on to say that "SOA isn’t the future, 'Web style' is." And what is Web style?  Essentially, the REST model (XML over HTTP), Bray said. "It might be helpful to remember what the goal is, what we’re trying to accomplish. We want to build applications that work across networks, where the networks have unpredictable scale and performance and reliability, and the computers in the networks aren’t all the same. That’s all."

In a response to Tim Bray's pronouncement, Loek Bakker says maybe Bray is getting a little too cynical, and there's a place for both SOA and Web Style.

Bakker says that while he does agree with Bray that "simplicity is a virtue when working with the Web," he takes Bray to task for suggesting Web Style services meet the same needs as SOA services. "The Web Style kind of services Tim speaks about are fundamentally different from services you will usually use within an SOA.... WS-* services and REST services are not competing, they are complementary. Web Style serves another purpose than SOA. Consumer-facing services have other QoS requirements than high-volume, cross-platform A2A transaction services. One service needs to be simple and flexible, while another service should seamlessly integrate with different platforms. Different requirements ask for different services, which in turn ask for different implementations. That is the reality of today's IT world."

Topic: Enterprise Software

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  • SOA and Business process management

    Although I do lean towards what Tim Bray's attitude is toward SOA he did miss some issues. One of the big goals of SOA and ESB was to allow the business process folks to get closer to the implementations, allowing them rearrange BP flows in an agile environment. I'm not a REST expert, but I don't think REST would address that due to the standard contract issues that would be needed to accomplish BP Management accross platforms.
  • SOA is only complex if you don't test it

    Yes, it can be complex ... but it's FAR LESS COMPLEX than all the other options enterprise organizations have at their disposal to integrate systems ... AND it is getting less complex, thanks to new technologies.

    For example, integration and SOA testing software now lets large orgs reliably validate whether their SOA efforts work in the ways they were 'designed' to.

    Once you have the RIGHT TOOLS, SOA is the fastest, easiest, most cost-effective way to connect large, complex systems together.

    Check out
  • That's all?

    "We want to build applications that work across networks, where the networks have unpredictable scale and performance and reliability, and the computers in the networks aren?t all the same. That?s all."

    Never underestimate the difficulty of building a reliable and consistent distributed system, don't let any salesman (including Mr Bray) tell you otherwise.