Read a transcript of the podcast.
Is Microsoft a services oriented architecture (SOA) company or not? Increasingly the software giant is walking the SOA walk if not talking the SOA talk. So we took this apparently schizophrenic approach to SOA to a panel of independent IT analysts for some probing and vetting.
This week's podcast panel consists of Steve Garone, a former program vice president at IDC and founder of the AlignIT Group; Joe McKendrick, an independent research consultant, contributing editor and columnist for Database Trends, and a SOA blogger for ZDNet and ebizQ; Mary Jo Foley, a ZDNet blogger, and Jeff Pendleton, a former IT executive who has filled many roles, at BEA, HP and other firms.
The discussion this week centers on two topics, both, of course, SOA-related. The first is Microsoft, which has been coming out with more lingo, or marketing, around SOA -- if not in the actual technology approach, at least in terms of the business values and the rationale for embarking on SOA. The second issue is trying to figure out the best way of conceptualizing SOA’s business value, and to then be able to take it out to the market. Join us as we delve into these complex and fascinating subjects.
Here are some excerpts:
I’ve been doing a lot of talking with both vendors and end-users recently and I think where the discussion needs to go is around is that the vendors seem to be caught up in a contradiction in terms. When they go out and talk to their prospects and customers about SOA, they try their best to create a message around business value, business agility and bringing real value to a line-of-business manager.
But then they immediately switch to tell you how valuable and how of high-quality their ESB is, and why you should use it. I think that’s a real issue today, because it really confuses customers.
On the one hand, they are being evangelized to about why they should be going in this direction, and on the other hand they are being pushed into a specific implementation that may not be right for them. So, the vendors face the real challenge in terms of being able to evangelize why people should do SOA and educating people about SOA in terms of how it impacts the business, and on the other hand to be able to go ahead and sell their products and bring their own revenue levels to where they want them to be.
Resolving that issue in a way that will help both vendors and end-users understand better, and be able to be more successful, is really the conversation that needs to be had.
That’s right on the mark. SOA is a great conversation to have, but at the end of the day, with the marketing community and the sales community, they need to sell something. Right now, given how amorphous SOA is and how it can be just about anything, it is complicated from a vendor perspective to walk away with an order.
What really needs to happen is that there needs to be a compelling story around the 21st Century enterprise, what that really means, and what some of the attributes are. We need to talk about SOA as an enabler and a cornerstone for that 21st Century, but there are other cornerstones. And we are not really talking about that so much.
Over the years, we’ve tried to dazzle and use rocket science as a way to define IT. The reality is that IT needs to be part of the day-to-day thinking -- not the day-to-day excuse -- of business.
How do you need to view your people? Are these folks that are tied to a desk almost automatons doing a routine process, or are they really plugged into the external environment? How are you organized?
On a higher level we’re really talking about IT transformation, and not on its own -- but IT transformation as an essential ingredient to business transformation.Microsoft is not using the term "SOA" at all. The whole time I was in Las Vegas for the Developer Connection event at different sessions I never heard anybody from Microsoft even mention the term. But as you’re saying too they’re introducing the pieces, and they’re talking about the value of integration.
Their whole “better together” strategy also incorporates not just Windows and Office, but also the .NET framework and Visual Studio pieces too. So, yeah, they’re definitely talking the talk, without actually saying the word.
Microsoft really needs that sort of services-based interoperability-founded paradigm, if you will, to be able to play in the enterprise, because it’s a single platform company and it needs to get beyond that.
So it tries to raise the level of abstraction and say, “I can play with everybody and here’s how I’m going to do it in a standards-based way.” In the context of this conversation, Microsoft is grafting to some extent onto the SOA concept for that same reason. Interestingly, if you look at some of the talk around Microsoft’s approach, they started to use the term “real-world SOA,” and the rationale for that is that organizations should not take this enterprise-wide, global view of SOA right away, but should start incrementally, in terms of solving individual business problems.
I think what Microsoft and some of the other organizations are doing is sitting back a little bit, waiting to find out whether SOA is going to become its own pillar, or whether it’s actually going to become an encompassing umbrella. I think Microsoft’s view is that it’s really more of an umbrella, under which to organize a lot of these other terms that are quite honestly starting to confuse the IT community.
If I were a CIO right now I’d probably have a massive headache, because you have these camps forming around these different notions. Before it was Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0. Well, what’s that? Why are they different?
And then you had the whole grid, and then you had mobility, and center networks. What you have are all of these disparate, or what appear to be disparate, concepts. And if you’re sitting back there with a fairly limited exploration budget, what do you do?Do you fall into the Web 2.0 camp? Is that really a camp? Right now, the market has so many buzzwords, or so many “platforms,” to consider that it’s again freezing the deer in the headlights.
Around the notion of SOA I get a distinct impression that Microsoft understands that their vision of SOA isn’t that much different than what others have. Yet they come from a unique position in terms of how to connect and collect these services and begin over time to play a syndication role.
So they’re actually in a very good position, but there are so many things going on right now that it’s hard to predict what's ultimately going to take root and really drive SOA forward.
At the Web 2.0 Summit, the O’Reilly show in San Francisco, where Intel came out with a Web 2.0 suite -- I think they are calling it SuiteTwo -- which is a series of independent, largely open-source-backed and -based features and functions, if you will, of Web 2.0.
They are directing it at the enterprise, to say, "Do your blogging, your wiki’s, and your podcasts. Do collaboration, communication, and social networking -- not just leaving it out in the ether for people to do for their personal life issues and their entertainment media issues. But bring it into the environment of the enterprise. We can use these tools for building consensus around a process or doing exception management through a wiki-based approach."
That’s an interesting ingredient here that I don’t think we can divorce from SOA. It is part of taking advantage of these younger folks who would like to do things this way, but then bring that into the enterprise in some controlled fashion, so that the older IT people will not be threatened, but actually embrace it.
Another development this week that has a big bearing on this is Dave Duffield, the man behind PeopleSoft, coming out with something called WorkDay. They took a look at the business applications environment and then built his offerings on an ESB -- it happens to be a Cape Clear ESB -- to create services swiftly and agilely, and at probably significantly lower cost.
This could have been done in the past -- because he has done it in the past -- but the new offer is a set of business applications as services. They might be very attractive, if not to the large enterprises, then to the small or medium business. If WorkDay can make their business work through SOA, doesn’t that in a sense spur on others?
Listen to the podcast, or read the full transcript for more on this week's SOA news and analysis.