SOA, seen through the lens of the economy

Could SOA be a fat budget item ripe for chopping, or is SOA the chopping mechanism?

I just finished my keynote speech to this week's SOA Congress being held in Mainz, Germany, in which I which covered the top 11 trends that will shape SOA during 2008.

Bad economy -- SOA saves. Good economy -- SOA adds revenues

One trend to watch I mentioned is the economy, which can ultimately drive or ditch all initiatives, despite anyone's best efforts. The state of the economy will shape both vendor messaging and service-oriented architecture initiatives. The executives that make the decisions about SOA purchases and resources will be viewing those decisions through the lens of the economy. Those selling or advocating SOA would need to adjust their messages as well.

The question is, then, is SOA a fat budget item ripe for chopping, or is it a chopping mechanism in and of itself?

I'm not by any means a doomsayer, as we clearly have a highly diverse and resilient economy that has weathered many storms. But a softening economy could send SOA in an entirely different direction than if the economy were to keep growing. The question is, what kind of direction? And how should SOA be positioned in light of macro-economic trends?

Bad economy: SOA saves. If the economy were to soften, and IT budgets were reigned in even more than they are, it would mean major purchases would be forestalled or canceled altogether. We saw this during the downturn of 2001, with pullbacks from CRM, supply chain management, and other major projects. This time around, companies would hold off on major middleware purchases, such as WebSphere or WebLogic. The impetus would go to open-source or commodity solutions.

The thrust of SOA in this kind of environment would need to emphasize cost-cutting and efficiency gained through reuse, sharing and standardized interfaces that cut systems integration time.

Of course, in this kind of environment, SOA may also be employed as a euphemism for "downsizing," just as business process re-engineering developed a bad name in times past.

Good economy: SOA adds revenues. If the economy keeps growing - and shrugs off the mortgage mess and higher oil prices - then there's a "growth tact" required for SOA. Big SOA offered by the big vendors will continue to dominate headlines, if course. The thrust of SOA will continue to emphasize emerging realms of event-driven/real-time architectures, as well as extending systems beyond the firewall to partners. Plus, its entirely appropriate to keep positioning SOA as an enabler of business agility, which contributes directly to increase revenues.