SOA: it's only rocket science

What can go wrong with SOA? Let me count the ways.

What can go wrong with SOA? Let me count the ways.

Better yet,  Miko Matsumura, Bjoern Brauel, and Jignesh Shah, all with SoftwareAG, have done the counting for us, in a new book that shows how to overcome various SOA issues, called "SOA Adoption for Dummies." (Available for download here.)

Here are some of the issues that will torpedo an SOA initiative:

  • SOA fatigue: "The duration and sheer complexity of SOA can lead to organizational fatigue." The authors say this can be minimized by ensuring that each project continues to show a return on investment (ROI).
  • Leadership changes: "Key individuals can get fired, get a better job somewhere else, or retire. Anything can happen." The authors say that such sudden changes can be overcome with a shared vision and committed team.
  • Vendor backlash: "Software vendors may promote their stack as a single-vendor SOA solution. A vendor may find a way to tightly couple or avoid interoperability in an effort to maximize its revenue from software licenses or services."
  • Consultant backlash: "Consultants want to stay in control and sell more billable hours. SOA can either benefit or jeopardize this lucrative agenda. Be aware that consultants will fight to defend or expand their revenue in most cases."
  • Implementer backlash: "Unless policy enforcement is gradually phased in alongside motivational incentives, developers and other key stakeholders may actively or passively resist."
  • Funding cutoff: "Unless executives continue seeing measurable business results coming from SOA projects, there may be a cutoff of funds going to your SOA program," the authors says. The urge keeping an eye on the measurements that "matter most to your executives and make sure your SOA program aligns with those objectives."

The authors say the best tool for managing these threats is the use of continuous measurement — not just IT metrics but business metrics. "By managing expectations and showing the positive business results that come from SOA, you can keep implementers, funders, and other key stakeholders in your organization enthusiastic about SOA."

Who pays for SOA? That's a good question, because SOA is a lot more than a tangible product or offering:

"You can usually explain much more easily the value of something you buy versus the value of something you do. Because SOA is something you 'do,' not something you buy, the trick is figuring out how to get your organization to fully embrace it."

The authors do a good job of laying out the fundamentals of SOA, and the book is loaded with helpful tips. For example, the authors recommend employing business process management as a way to quickly link SOA to business processes:

"Coupling SOA with BPM ensures consistency without hard wiring of code. When you develop processes in a BPM environment, you quickly realize which services the SOA platform has to provide in order for processes to be automated. BPM gives scope to an SOA initiative in such a way that SOA is seen immediately as adding value versus adding cost and complexity. Because SOA is seen from the perspective of the business, the SOA infrastructure serves its intended purpose: to provide valuable service, not just some form of interface."

The authors also equate the SOA journey to a space flight, as follows:

"SOA adoption, like a real-world rocket,experiences a danger zone between blast-off and the weightlessness of orbit. When fully realized, SOA can transform your business. But until firmly established, your SOA dreams can plummet back to earth. Getting across this SOA danger zone requires a focus on several key principles: Keep the pointy end of the SOA rocket up by measuring your progress and making course corrections as you go; Keep moving up by motivating the teams and players in your SOA adoption; Don’t stop till you’re weightless by automating processes until implementing SOA becomes second nature and therefore effortless."

Fittingly, the last chapter, entitled "To Infinity and Beyond," looks at where SOA is leading, and points to new worlds such as event driven architecture (EDA) and complex event processing (CEP), and software as a service and platform as a service,