Before jumping into cloud, learn from the SOA experience

Companies need to look at service-oriented approaches -- and what has been learned over the past decade -- before taking on potentially entangling and silo-creating cloud engagements.

You want expensive and duplicated service entanglements?  You want huge silos? That's what cloud computing may bring enterprises that can't manage and govern the process. All these issues have already been worked out in SOA settings, and companies that have worked with SOA approaches within their business technology are much better prepared to move into cloud computing than those not as familiar with SOA.

That's the view of Thomas Erl, who is a best-selling and perhaps the most prolific IT author on the planet, and a passionate proponent of the "service technology" revolution reshaping enterprise systems. I recently caught up with Thomas, also CEO of Arcitura Education Inc., a service technology education and certification provider, incorporating and, for a discussion on how SOA has prepared enterprises for today's cloud computing endeavors.

Before moving into cloud, there's much to learn from the SOA experience, he points out. "Companies who have gone ahead and adopted SOA, have gone through a number of project lifecycles, and are delivering services are using that experience and knowledge in cloud computing technology."

Before moving to cloud, companies that have not yet adopted SOA practices to "reach out to other organizations that have gone through the SOA lifecycle, to fully understand what it is they’re establishing, what it is they’re building, and the commitments of ownership are," Thomas says.

Companies need to look at service-oriented approaches -- and what has been learned over the past decade -- before taking on a potentially entangling and silo-creating cloud engagements. "It's easier to build silos in the sky in the cloud than on-premise," Thomas points out. "You can build nice big monolithic applications that don’t connect with anything, and only fulfill immediate automation requirements, and then work your way towards a beautiful integration nightmare in the future where everything has to rely on point-to-point fragile type of integration architectures. And you can build that wonderfully using the infinite resources of the cloud, you can build it out for eternity. You’ll just have that ever-growing albatross around your organization's neck as it tries to have its IT environment keep up with how the business needs to evolve and change."

A lot of these integration and governance issues have already been worked out within SOA efforts in recent years, Thomas says. For companies contemplating cloud, "the SOA community has already done the work for them," says Thomas. "Everything's there  and documented now, in terms of models, patterns, and principals and best practices."

Take a serious look at what SOA can provide, he urges. "The models that support SOA will formalize the cloud environment. Whether its SOA or another formal model. You want to formalize that environment, because if you just use the resources in a tactical manner, as your business needs them and fulfill it that way, you’re just repeating the cycle of silo-based applications leading to integration architectures leading to IT."

Those who have gone through the SOA lifecycle "will have more of an appreciation for the nature of the risk factors with cloud," Thomas continues. "Because you need to be able to govern your ecosystem, govern your services, and work toward a specific target state. There are definite concrete advantages to leveraging cloud resources, to maximize the business requirements potential, and fulfill a potential with those resources. But there are also very concrete, very real risks that come with that. The more you understand how much your business depends on these services, the more they’ve been reused, the more you’ve already gone through cases where you’ve had services crash, because the usage has been too high, or they’ve been attacked, or certain failover in house hasn't worked, the more you can appreciate what a cloud environment can bring."

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