Wanted, desperately: more SOA movers and shakers

There may not be enough 'visionary architects' to fill the burgeoning demand for new SOA projects across enterprises.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

An enterprise architect "drought" looms, and this may slow down many SOA efforts over the coming year.  In a new prediction issued within the past couple of weeks, ZapThink's Ron Schmelzer has sounded the alarm that there simply won't be enough SOA proponents to fill the burgeoning demand for new SOA projects.

"First, there is a significant demand in the marketplace for experienced SOA talent. Second, we are seeing a burgeoning of SOA consulting companies that offer kick-start approaches to SOA in which they supply the experienced architects and their customers supply the heavy-lift labor to implement the Services. Already we’re starting to see a bifurcation in the IT community between architect and developer, with development seen as an increasing commodity whereas architecture is an increasing scarcity." 

Yes, we've been hearing all the predictions that that SOA is now moving from pilot stages to enterprise-scale implementations in many organizations, but who's going to drive these efforts in organizations? Such individuals need not only technical know-how, but also an ability to sell SOA to business leaders.

In a new interview, Miko Matsumura, vice president of WebMethods, also expresses concern that SOA movers and shakers in organizations may be too few and far between. That role is falling to what Miko calls "visionary architects," who can provide a "scalability of understanding" to drive the scalability of the system.

Needed: 'visionary architects' to bring SOA to the business

However, the biggest challenge for these individuals is getting past "boundaries and barriers when it comes to the rest of the organization in terms of really getting it." In addition, there simply aren't enough of these individuals, Miko says. "As SOA starts becoming an in-demand function, these individuals themselves will be in short supply. What's noteworthy is that there is a lot of reliance in SOA is on specific types of people. These projects tend to be anchored by people who get it. What we need for SOA education is to have some people who get it help propagate that knowledge across the organization. That's going to be another 2007 hot button, which is the shortage of qualified visionary architects."

ZapThink has launched its own SOA certification program to cultivate more of such individuals, and Miko recommends that the SOA community at large -- including vendors -- begin to shift their educational efforts to encompass two tracks -- one for SOA knowledge, and one for the business perspective.

"If you look at the machine and technical side, a lot of it is fairly linear in the way that people are trained. People are trained in measurable knowledge. What's interesting about the adoption curve for SOA in the business domain is that there needs to be two parallel tracks. There needs to be a track focused on knowledge, but the other track needs to be focused on motivation. There needs to be this tie-in to the feeling that this information is strategic and vital. There needs to be education about why people should care about SOA." 

A key part of this new educational process is communicating the strategic nature of technology and the capabilities of this new architecture, Miko elaborated. "First, the language of service orientation is not solely the language of technology. The service consumer pattern is something just about anybody can understand. It's as simple as request response.  I know that's almost ludicrously simple, but the thing the business person needs to understand is that pattern is essentially the atomic structure of all business interaction."

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