The best way to sell SOA? Try Web 2.0 techniques

SOA, Web 2.0's boring cousin

There's no question that SOA has been a tough sell in many organizations. Conversely, the response to Web 2.0 has been almost a cult-like following -- many end users can't get enough of these online tools.

SOA, Web 2.0's boring cousin

How can SOA proponents glom onto some of this enthusiasm? Some experts say that the lightweight, user-friendly techniques seen in the Web 2.0 experience can serve as SOA's best selling tool. Some even say that eventually, the two worlds may even blend to the point where they are indistinguishable.

These points were raised in a very compelling online panel discussion on the growing convergence between SOA and Web 2.0, hosted by Beth Gold-Bernstein, my colleague over at ebizQ. Beth was joined by luminaries including ZDNet's own Dion Hinchcliffe, ZapThink's Ron Schmelzer, and Doug Wilson, CTO of portals and collaboration products at IBM.

Doug Wilson pointed out that "it's not always obvious for people to see the connection" between SOA and Web 2.0. However, at the end of the day, Web 2.0 addresses the same problems SOA is addressing:

Aspects of Web 2.0, such as mashups, "are the juxtaposition or combination of information from multiple back end services. In fact, mashups are a compositional mechanism by which an end user or programmer can bring multiple sources of information or transactions to bear on one problem. This goes right to the heart of SOA and SOA composition."

Doug stated that enabling users to easily compose services that make calls to back-end systems will go a long way to helping businesses see the value in SOA.

For some, SOA may meld into Web 2.0, and the result will be a global SOA, with various islands comprised of enterprise SOAs. Dion Hinchcliffe put it this way: "Look at the Web as it is today -- it has now become the world's largest service oriented architecture. Over 600 companies have opened their business up as Web services."

However, currently, the tools and protocols being used for Web 2.0 engagements are "not what we're using in the enterprise," Dion observed. "We're seeing this rise to Web oriented architecture that's happening outside our organization -- they're using REST instead of SOAP."

Will Web 2.0-style approaches eventually permeate through enterprise walls? It's inevitable, Dion continued. Web 2.0 is "leading to a realignment in the way we look at SOA. When I talk to many SOA architects, they're trying to figure out where this fits in. We are seeing some differences and some changes to the way we might want to do things on the infrastructure side."

However, Ron Schmelzer pointed out that Web services and SOA are two very different things, meant to serve different purposes:

"The concept of SOA actually predates Web services by at least five or six years. The main proponents of service oriented architecture at that time created architecture around CORBA. The use of Web services technology is only appropriate for certain circumstances; it's not appropriate for all uses of service oriented architecture. For example, I wouldn't want a mobile device sitting on a network consuming heavy Web service and protocols."

Web 2.0 and SOA also have different philosophies, Ron added. "SOA is about empowering the enterprise, and Web 2.0 is about empowering the individual," he said. "The ideas of Web 20 and SOA are definitively different. They espouse different ideas. SOA is primarily architectural, which means it's an approach a methodology a style and a design. Web 2.0 is a broad-based movement that covers a variety of topics."

In combination, however, Web 2.0 and SOA are a power to be reckoned with. "We want the user to become increasingly more familiar with in the broad Internet, and bring that experience into the enterprise," Ron said. "At the same time, allowing the enterprise to free up its assets, and empower the business user."

The complete panel Webcast can be found here.