Two years in, and substantial SOA questions remain

It seems that too much is being asked of the notion of SOA. It's being used as a marketing directive and IT maturation imperative on so many fronts as to make the acronym increasingly meaningless.

Annrai O'Toole at Cape Clear (a sponsor of BriefingsDirect podcasts) has cast an intriguing net with his blog post on the pertinent questions now facing the SOA adoption process. As is often the case, asking the right questions can make all the difference in reaching understanding. And SOA, even two years into its hype curve ride, can still use a lot more understanding.

O'Toole's thoughtful questions may help focus the ongoing SOA ramble. It seems that too much is being asked of the notion of SOA. It's being used as a marketing directive and IT maturation imperative on so many fronts as to make the acronym increasingly meaningless. That's a huge risk, because if SOA conceptually gets too watered down, it will be all the more difficult to muster the cross-organizational buy-in that is required to make SOA succeed.

In this post, O'Toole is asking if he's asking the right questions. I'd say he's off to a great start. And some of the responses so far seem to point to a near universal demand that all the nebulous SOA efforts be made more simple, more direct.

Indeed, much of the SOA discussion so far rests on the "what" of the problems facing IT today, and the "what if" of where SOA could lead. What is much less fleshed out are the "hows" -- the actual steps to transform IT and with it, the enterprise. That is where the complexity and the confusion are greatest.

So if Cape Clear means to proffer more meaning on SOA by looking at its relevance in relation to five basic areas -- application development, business cases, as platform (or not), in open source, and real-world uses and benefits -- I'm all for it. If the discussion can confine SOA and magnify its mandate -- while not glossing it over, either -- then perhaps SOA will become less ethereal, and less ephemeral.

What do you consider the top five questions that SOA should answer for your organization?