Why does Web Oriented Architecture (WOA) have so many dedicated and zealous fans, while SOA gets pounded by endless bad press?
Everybody likes WOA, distrusts SOA. Does this make WOA enterprise-ready?
People simply like WOA a lot more than SOA. At least that's the conclusion reached by Roger Smith in a recent article published in InformationWeek. (And also what I've been observing from other sources.)
But does winning the popularity contest mean WOA is a better option for enterprises?
Here's the case presented for WOA, a blending of Web 2.0 approaches -- services delivered from the Web -- with enterprise infrastructure requirements. As Smith puts it, many top-down SOA projects are too unwieldy, and not delivering, and besides, most employees (read business users) are oblivious to the whole thing anyway. Everyone seems to get WOA, however:
"A growing number of companies are finding that lower-visibility Web-oriented architecture (WOA) developments, spawned through grassroots movements, are a better route to the service-oriented architecture. WOA, like SOA, is an architectural approach to system design, though WOA is resource-oriented rather than service-oriented. What's the difference? While the core SOA design unit is a reusable service that fulfills a distinct business function, resource-oriented services are more limited and data-focused."
So WOA works because its a bottom-up approach that starts small and expands. Many SOA proponents have argued over the years that SOA needs to have an enterprise focus from the get-go, which can definitely be a showstopper. With WOA, you just go ahead and do it, no matter what the rest of the enterprise thinks.
Cloud computing is the clearest instantiation of WOA, and you can get much of the infrastructure you need from cloud-based services such as Amazon Web Services.
The main advantage cited about WOA is that it's simpler than SOA, and in the process is gaining more enterprise converts. Shades of the long simmering REST-SOAP debate also emerge in this new paradigm as well. There's a discussion of how "a small but vocal cadre of enterprise architects" are making their preference for WOA and REST well known.
The article quotes Steve Bjorg, co-founder and CTO of MindTouch, which offers a Deki Wiki that is now deployed by FedEx, Fujitsu, Gannett, Microsoft, Siemens, the US Army. "By going the WOA-plus-REST route instead of SOA-plus-SOAP, the requirements for extending the application dropped considerably," Bjorg says. "There is no SOAP processing stack with complicated WSDL documents, an SOA registry, and what have you. Instead, someone can easily create an extension to Deki Wiki using any number of computer languages."
There are plenty of professionals out there that have a lot of healthy skepticism of the WOA phenomenon. They see WOA as more hype than substance, and basically a very immature and still unproven technology approach. (Then again, the same could be said for SOA...)
The article concludes that there's a place in the world for both WOA and SOA, since they are complementary architectural styles that both have their specific purposes.
As mentioned previously in this blogsite, SOA may benefit from WOA (and Web 2.0 in general) because it enables business end users to see and experience online services via composite mashups and cloud computing. SOA could be sold as an internal cloud that provides online services inside the walls of the enterprise. In this regard, WOA makes SOA real to perplexed business users. Plus, enterprise SOA implementations may function as islands of integration that will eventually be assimilated into a larger WOA, whilestill retaining boundaries.
In the meantime, WOA will get the accolades, while SOA will just keep doing the hard work. Sorry, SOA, people just seem to like WOA more.