Gartner: 'no major conceptual flaw' yet with SOA, but...

Gartner has given the green light to accelerated SOA spending. The concept works, but caution, the payback will be slower than expected

Gartner has given the green light to accelerated SOA spending. The concept works, but caution, the payback will be slower than expected.

I like how L. Frank Kenney, research director for Gartner, has summed up the state of enterprise SOA adoption thus far: “Large numbers of successes have been reported, and no major conceptual flaw has been discovered in SOA," he said, speaking at this week's big Gartner confab taking place this week in SanFran.

He advised organizations to "aggressively invest in SOA as it will rapidly become the architectural foundation for virtually every new business-critical application.” Gartner now estimates that more than 50 percent of new mission-critical operational applications and business processes designed this year. This number will jump to more than 80 percent by 2010.

No major conceptual flaws? Hey, what's not to like?  SOA, in its purest form, promotes across-the-board reuse of IT assets, across-the-board standardization so systems inside and outside the business can exchange data and launch services, and breathes new life into the billions and billions invested in back-end legacy systems over the past century. How can there be a downside to all this? 

The downside is that too much is being expected of SOA in too short of a time, and this is creating a lot of tension. In the current hyped-fueled rush to SOA, organizations are spending money on things that don't quite meet the grand promises of SOA.

It's still going to take at least three years to see any return on investment for SOA projects, Kenney estimated. "Despite the falling cost of technology, more widespread know-how and availability of SOA services from systems integrators, the incremental upfront cost of SOA vs. a traditional architecture in most cases can’t be justified for fast return-on-investment, opportunistically oriented projects."

The problem, Kenney points out, is that there's a lot of hoops that need to be jumped through before SOA works as it should. SOA is not a product CIOs "can buy and install," he said. "In additional to adoption of new technologies, it requires changes in people’s behavior."

And that's not the only tough part, he said: "Compared with traditional monolithic or client/server architectures, SOA needs a more-careful application design. It often requires use of integration middleware. Testing, debugging, managing and securing a distributed SOA are complex and expensive."