Whoa, WOA: Are acronyms clouding up the cloud?

Can't get the business signed on to SOA? Web Oriented Architecture may help the cause

ZDNet colleague Dana Gardner points to Michael Meehan's recent post on the Web Oriented Architecture (WOA) -- Mike spoke with some industry practitioners who apparently didn't think too much of the "WOA" moniker, striking them "as redundant and nothing particularly new, an empty suit if you will." Just another fancy name for the Web 2.0 services we've been working with all along.

WOA is cruise director, SOA is down in the engine room. Which job is more fun?

But WOA -- at least the concept -- is a key catalyst that will move SOA forward, to a level of acceptance it has not attained to date. I'll explain in a second.

Dana does a good job of distinguishing between what we consider SOA, versus WOA:

SOA: ..."registry/repository, BPEL engine, scalable middleware beyond EAI, SOAP and XML appliances, additional performance management tier, ESB, federated ESB, data services tier (and another 15 acronyms there), SCA/SDO support, Windows Communication Foundation hooks, and so on...."

WOA: "...a webby style of apps and integration, of mashups and open APIs, of using REST and RIA clients, all from a variety of Internet sources. It’s integration as a service, too. These can all be composited, accessed and managed by an enterprise’s internal SOA, or not. The services can come from a cloud, public or private..."

Looking at the conventional definitions of SOA and WOA, you can understand why businesspeople shut down in SOA discussions, but then you can see their eyes light up for WOA topics. Let's face it, WOA (or Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0) has caught everyone's attention and passion, while SOA is all that stuff behind the scenes. On a cruise ship, the WOA folks would be the recreation directors, chefs, entertainers, and cruise directors making it a fantastic journey. The SOA folks are working down in the hot, noisy engine room, making the ship go forward.

But I digress... Ultimately, SOA and WOA will have a lot of overlap, and a lot of common ground. Having trouble getting people to visualize and understand SOA? Think in WOA terms: SOA can serve as the path to an organization's internal "cloud," if you will, providing online services and data to various business units that no longer have to build and maintain their own technology infrastructures. And, perhaps, providing or selling some of those services to outside partners and customers as part of the outside cloud.

The lines between service providers and consumers aren't blurring -- they're vanishing altogether. We're all becoming both providers and consumers of technology-based services. Businesspeople are gradually becoming technology savvy, and technologists are becoming business savvy.

Or, as Dana so aptly put it, "the definitions of and distinctions between applications, platforms, services, tools, clouds, portals, integration, middleware are — all up for grabs. IT as a concept is up for grabs."

UPDATE: I just saw Dave Linthicum has weighed in on the SOA-WOA debate, concluding with this thought: Relax, and don't let another TLA (three-letter acronym) be a distraction from the business at hand.