What challenges await those seeking to build SOAs in their organizations? Unfortunately, they're biggies, according to a new report out of the Burton Group. The consultancy has identified what it calls the three most significant impediments slowing SOA adoption:
- Infrastructure: "The Web services framework may be appropriate for building point-to-point connections, but it’s not quite ready for true SOA. Advanced capabilities—particularly policy-based management and control—are still being defined. For the moment, an enterprise must adopt proprietary policy administration and enforcement solutions until policy standards mature."
- Design: "SOA requires a different approach to application design; therefore, an enterprise must train developers in SOA design principles and best practices."
- Culture: "Most organizations’ incentive systems are in opposition to SOA; therefore, an enterprise must institute new incentives to encourage the adoption of SOA."
The third impediment on the list -- organizational culture tied to incentives -- is a real doozy. There's a paradox that I've discussed in previous blogs. Organizations that don't need SOA will adopt it; those that really could use SOA won't adopt it. That is, the type of organizational culture that encourages initiatives such as SOAs is also likely be forward-thinking with other types of initiatives, and see success with or without SOA. Organizations where SOA would really make a difference won't be supportive of SOA efforts.
Oh, and one other minor, minor detail — we haven't really decided what an SOA is, exactly. “Despite agreement that SOA will enable better flexibility and agility, there’s still debate as to what exactly SOA is and how to implement it," says Burton Group research director Anne Thomas Manes. Burton Group defines SOA as "a style of application design that focuses on implementing software functionality as shared, reusable services, in which each service represents a relatively autonomous business or technical function." Examples of such services include credit checking, order processing, inventory stock lookup, or user authentication.
In my opinion, the only way to overcome issues of this magnitude is by having an SOA evangelist/mover-and-shaker -- with executive authority -- who can cut through organizational calcification, management short-sightedness, and vendor FUD. As soon as we figure out what SOA is, that is.