Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The word “SOA” is dead

As usual Anne Thomas Manes wrote a brilliant and controversial article about SOA:

"Although the word “SOA” is dead, the requirement for service-oriented architecture is stronger than ever.

But perhaps that’s the challenge: The acronym got in the way. People forgot what SOA stands for. They were too wrapped up in silly technology debates (e.g., “what’s the best ESB?” or “WS-* vs. REST”), and they missed the important stuff: architecture and services."

I humbly wrote something similar before, I was discussing about governance needs but the problems are almost the same:

"IT is broken: we clearly see this simple and true fact daily, but I hardly find organizations able to recognize the fact that they need to reconcile their IT operations with their business needs first through organizational changes. They too often just try to buy the next magical box and hope that plugging it into their IT department it will fix problems.

Again and as usual: lot of money, few successes and SOA is becoming another abused bad word."

However the concrete requirement, as Anne wrote, is still here and unresolved.


Anne's article is creating a lot of discussions on blogs, here time by time I will collect some of the most interesting reactions.

Steve Jones's In a recession its even more about the services:

"Reading between the lines of what Anne writes I think I'd say that her statement is that vendors are moving away from SOA as they've flogged you enough stuff and now they want to flog you its offspring: mashups, BPM, SaaS, Cloud Computing
the marketing fury of T-SOA has moved on as their just aren't that many more ESBs and Web Service tools that you can be sold.

If you adopt the new technologies without having a services mentality then you will create a degree of mess that will make the one that consultants and vendors got fat on with EAI look like a trivial problem. Doing Spaghetti inside your firewall in big applications is one thing, doing it over the internet and with thousands of small ones is a completely different scale of problem.

So in a recession you need to Identify your services, understand the business value that they deliver, understand the cost model to deliver that value and then decide on the right technology approach.

If that isn't SOA then I don't know what is. So in reality its the "other" SOA that is dead, not the SOA of today."

Yes, that's the point: vendors are looking for the next cash cow. But if you don't want to be treat like a cow you shouldn't behave like a cow and stop eating all the hypes vendors are always throwing around. SOA is actually a good thing, but it is not something new and does not require special tools unless you have all your requirements clear. Is really SOA that different from old object-oriented domain modelling? Isn't that about clean separation of public interfaces from their implementations?

A deep and savy analysis is presented by Gary Barnett:

Essentially - this is what I have to say -

  • Saying “SOA is Dead” is as meaningful as saying “Art is dead”
  • It is either misleading or foolish (or both) to state that SOA is dead
  • Giving up on architecture just because it’s a “chore” is the road to failure…
  • If SOA is dead, then Web 2.0 is dead
  • The good news, though, is that SOA is as fit as a fiddle
  • The bad news is that if you want to succeed, you have to be willing to make an effort
  • We have a simple choice: get it right, or do it all over again
Gary is not really distant from what Anne wrote, to me he just thinks her message can be misunderstood. I personally already realized in 2007 that the acronym "SOA" was seen with growing suspicion by customers, so I was suggesting my colleagues to start discussing more concrete aspects. As Gary wrote, in enterprises the need for Architecture is stronger than ever, it is not time to give up but maybe to just re-tune our vocabulary.

Gary writes:

"Architecture is pivotal to the success of service based IT. It’s not a “nice to have”, it’s a fundamental necessity. Unless we as an industry make a real commitment to architecture we’re doomed to continue to make the same mistakes we’ve been making for decades."
"Take mash-ups, as an example – Sure, you can quickly assemble some fantastic apps by simply grabbing some javascript and coding away. But there are big, big, disappointments in store for mash-up builders who assume that because it’s cool and new they don’t need to think about all those boring questions that a mature approach to architecture helps you to answer (Reliability, security, availability, scalability, re-use etc etc)."
"As growing numbers of people succeed, we’re learning (or re-learning) a host of lessons about how to deliver the agility, re-use, scalability and general goodness that a service oriented approach to software architecture, design and development can provide."

Read his complete blog article.