Big surprise: SOA enters the trough of disillusionment

Gartner has released its 2005 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, one of 68 hype cycles released by the analyst firm this year. Along with the really funky stuff, such as carbon nanotubes, podcasting, and mesh networks, SOA and Web services get a special mention -- a very special mention -- in the analyst firm's assessment.

Gartner has released its 2005 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies, one of 68 hype cycles released by the analyst firm this year. Along with the really funky stuff, such as carbon nanotubes, podcasting, and mesh networks, SOA and Web services get a special mention -- a very special mention -- in the analyst firm's assessment.

A few years back, Gartner did the industry a service by identifying the predictable pattern that comes with every technology introduction (my interpretation, not Gartner's, here):

1) waves of endless hype that suggest that no one can live without the technology, and you're a hopeless laggard if you do not buy into it immediately;

2) followed by the next stage in which vendors move on to The Next Hyped Big Thing and a lot of people get mad that they spent a lot of money for a new-fangled mess;

3) and finally, a contented realization that gradually and steadily, the technology is finding its niche and beginning to deliver something, even though not as much as originally predicted. Of course, by this time, the technology is "legacy."

SOA and Web services are probably now somewhere between the first and second stages.

Gartner seems downright breathless about SOA and associated technology, however. David Cearly, research vice president at Gartner, goes as far as to say that Next-Generation Architecture -- consisting of SOA, Web services, Extensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL), and business process platforms -- "will constitute the third big era in the IT industry's history -- the first having been the hardware era and second belonging to software."

Here is Gartner's take on where SOA and Web services stand:

SOA: "Despite the current disillusionment with SOA, Gartner expects support for SOA to grow and for it to mature as a technology within ten years. In the longer term, Gartner believes that SOA has the potential to be transformational to a business."

Web services-enabled business models. "Enterprises are still wrestling with what Web services will do and Gartner believes that the potentially transformational impact of Web services-enabled business models will have to wait for more-mature standards and clearer examples."

Extensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL). XBRL, a standard for exchanging all types of financial information, has begin its rise up the hype cycle. "Financial accounting software vendors are already incorporating XBRL and regulatory and transparency pressures increase the significance and likelihood of XBRL adoption. However, there have been setbacks in XBRL adoption in the past year; the most significant have been delays in the FDIC and FSA projects that will mandate XBRL reporting."

Business process platforms (BPPs). The time for BPPs -- which use SOA design principles and are metadata and model driven -- has not quite arrived yet. But Gartner does expect to see BPPs "replace customized business applications and custom development by extending core applications platforms with composite applications."