Time for a 'stimulus package' for SOA?

Companies should pull the plug on SOA efforts not delivering ROI

Is it time to retrench and get SOA back to basics? Some discussions taking place at this week's Open Group Enterprise Architecture conference reflect growing concern that SOA efforts have stalled, or that SOA is now in a funk. Is it time for a shot of new energy or funding? Or maybe it's time to step back and apply a shot of good old-fashioned business sense.

Don't send good money after bad; pull the plug on SOA efforts not delivering

Too many times, we're engaging in SOA for SOA's sake. In a keynote that helped kick of the conference, David Linthicum said there are many situations were SOA may simply not be necessary. A mainframe system that rapidly processes transactions may be well enough left alone. "You're not going to increase the speed of your systems by putting a layer on top of it," he said. "SOA success means applying SOA where needed. But if it ain't broke, don't fix it."

Companies should pull the plug on SOA efforts not delivering ROI, David said. He also repeated his prediction from a few months back that that SOA would eventually fold into Enterprise Architecture. It only makes sense, he said -- companies are discovering that they can't have two separate processes -- "SOA is EA and EA is SOA."

Tony Baer's read on David's keynote also points to getting back to business fundamentals: "With undercurrents as to whether threats of an oncoming recession are taking its toll on SOA budgets, or whether there is what Gartner terms a 'trough of disillusionment' afflicting SOA adoption, Linthicum stated to a room of enterprise architects that you have to start with an ROI case."

I had the opportunity to join Tony and David in a panel discussion following David's keynote, in which we performed a "reality check" on the state of SOA. We were joined by moderator Eric Knorr of InfoWorld, along with Tom Morgan (AutoDesk) and Chris Harding (Open Group).

In this panel, we also examined the matter of SOA efforts getting stuck, a theme that flowed from David's keynote. Our panel explored SOA's uncertain relationship with other disciplines. It was agreed, for example, that business process management is a key element of SOA and visa-versa. However, we also agreed that there is still a wide chasm between the two. Tom Morgan observed that while his organization, AutoDesk, has had a far-reaching SOA effort underway for a number of years now, they "punted" on applying BPM to the effort.

The panel also discussed the issues that linger around governance, especially in the areas of registry and repository. Tony Baer observed that there were still too many issues at the metadata level, and vendors keep pushing registry/repository as a panacea for governance.

Mashups and Web 2.0 are another area colliding with SOA. Dave Linthicum stated that mashups are, indeed, a viable part of SOA taking place within organizations. However, Eric Knorr said he has heard many organizations are not keen on letting data in or out of the corporate firewall.

SOA can work hand in hand with data management, and Tom pointed out that AutoDesk has been very effectively employing SOA-based services to pull, rationalize, and cleanse customer support data from across the enterprise.