RedMonk's Cote' apparently has been doing a lot of thinking about how much of SOA is marketecture, and how much is the real deal. The answer lies somewhere in between, he concludes.
"The technical ideas are great. It's the further evolution of OO. In fact, it's almost the child of distributed OO and HTTP/XML. Somewhere along the lines, WS-* came in and kidnapped that child."
However, he notes (and despite my constant harping on this blogsite), SOA is still mainly about technology, not "the business." Cote' observes that the 'solutions'/business side of the fence has hijacked it as a marketecture gold-mine. There's a sort of paradox here as SOA is supposed to be in terms of business and solution...but I think it's largely failed in that Holy Grail task of bringing the propeller heads and the suits together."
Cote' also asked a question I also keep raising at this site: If not SOA, then what? What's the alternative to untangling and simplifying our Spaghetti-Oriented Architectures? Cote' adds this admittedly "snarky, between the lines question" as well: "what makes 'SOA' different than 'programming?'"
Going back to that one step that Cote' says is not happening, SOA is supposed to involve, and be driven by, the business. The ability to rapidly leverage reusable services that can be assembled, on demand, to support changing business processes is supposed to transform the relationship between the business and its underlying technology. Yes, SOA is still a technical pursuit 98% of the time, no question. But there's also an increasing convergence taking place between SOA and business process management. And this is going to be a long journey.
Jon Collins of Macehiter Ward-Dutton also posted his reaction to Cote's analysis. He agrees that the IT-business convergence has not happened, but that SOA can, and is, being made to work. Organizations view SOA "not as some massively complex change to their existing ways of working," but "more as an incremental, evolutionary approach that enables it to think about its capabilities in business-meaningful terms, and the adoption of base principles such as contractual relationships between service suppliers and consumers." Vendors may be preaching revolution, but end-user enterprises, to their credit, are being very pragmatic.