Hagel: Use Web 2.0 to break the SOA logjam

Want to help SOAers get their acts together real quick? The Web 2.0 crowd should do an end-run around IT, just as the PC and Internet advocates did in years gone by.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

Want to help SOAers get their acts together real quick? The Web 2.0 crowd should do an end-run around IT, just as the PC and Internet advocates did in years gone by.

There's nothing like a little threatening competition to get people up and motivated. John Hagel raises interesting new observations on the tortured relationship (or lack of relationship) between SOA and Web 2.0. Namely, that the two phenomena are still poles apart. "A cultural chasm separates these two technology communities, despite the fact that they both rely heavily on the same foundational standard - XML," Hagel writes. John Hagel

"The evangelists for SOA tend to dismiss Web 2.0 technologies as light-weight 'toys' not suitable for the 'real' work of enterprises.  The champions of Web 2.0 technologies, on the other hand, make fun of the 'bloated' standards and architectural drawings generated by enterprise architects, skeptically asking whether SOAs will ever do real work."

Hmmm -- where have a heard this argument before? Rewind back 20 years, substitute "PCs" for "Web 2.0" and "mainframes" for "SOA." In more recent times, PDAs, handhelds, IM, and even the Internet itself were mocked as "toys" or "frivilous." Now, enterprises can't live with out them, of course.

Hagel gives a lot of credit to our own Dion Hinchcliffe, a fellow ZDNet blogger, for making the connection between Web 2.0 and SOA. He cites Dion's groundbreaking treatise on "Is Web 2.0 the Global SOA?"

Dion picked up on Hagel's observations in his own post, aptly summarizing the perceptual gap that exists between SOA and Web 2.0. "For its own part, SOA has stodgy-sounding composite applications, while Web 2.0 has a virtually identical concept with the much hipper moniker: mashups, a reference to the musical phenomenon it so much resembles," Dion says.

He adds that "the innovation on the Web is pouring over the firewall of the enterprise and remaking it.  Slowly in some cases, but much faster in others.  Web 2.0 seems to be overtaking SOA in subtle, yet telling ways."

The irony, of course, is that SOA came along as a way to make things simpler and more flexible. However, Hagel notes, "SOAs were hijacked by an alliance of CIOs and IT consulting firms, each with their own reason for extending the effort required to deploy SOAs." With more and more hype, "line executives within the enterprise are experiencing mounting frustration over the escalating hype around SOAs," and "the growing spending over SOA design initiatives and the relatively limited business impact achieved by SOA deployments."

Two things are required to break what Hagel calls this "SOA logjam." First, Web 2.0 proponents need to do an end-run around the IT department and go right to the business managers. (Hmm.  Again, sounds familiar, back the PC days, early Internet, etc.). Second, Web 2.0 proponents "should avoid the temptation to present grand visions of new architectures and concentrate instead on starting points where these technologies can deliver near-term business impact" -- with a six-to-twelve month demonstable ROI for projects. Hagel adds that "This should not be too hard since by nature Web 2.0 technologists are bootstrappers and hackers."

Hagel does not dismiss SOA, noting that it needs to "be deployed in a much more incremental and pragmatic way." He predicts a growing convergence, at least eventually between the two camps, and adds this little nugget:

"Perhaps a little competition from Web 2.0 technologies will help to break the logjam and force both IT departments and IT consultants to adapt their culture and operations to growing business pressure for accelerated impact and learning."
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