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ebizQ's Business Agility Watch


Finally Getting SOA Right: A Talk With ZapThink

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What follows is my podcast with Jason Bloomberg, Managing Partner and Senior Analyst of ZapThink. Jason is a thought leader in the areas of enterprise architecture and Service Oriented Architecture, and in this podcast we go over the whole 'SOA is Dead' affair, along with why SOA is more alive and important than ever! This relates to ebizQ's upcoming SOA in Action Virtual Conference, coming this October 28th and 29th. Sign up here.

Listen to or download the 6:14 podcast:

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PS: First of all, can you give me an overview of this whole SOA is dead business?

JB: Well, we can lay the blame squarely at the feet of Anne Thomas Manes of the Burton Group who wrote this blog post early in 2009 basically with the SOA is Dead title and caused quite a consternation in the industry. Now, if you read blog post, well, she was making some very important points that you can't sell SOA to the business, it has to be driven business needs.

And furthermore, there's a lot of misunderstanding about SOA and there's this misconception that SOA is something that you buy from a vendor, you install its software and that's just not true so that all straw man for SOA is dead. But the SOA best practices, its architecture best practices are alive and well and that's really the point she was making.

Unfortunately, though the title of the blog post set a lot of people scurrying for cover because they were worried their boss was going to come down on them. And that did happened in some organizations where the boss only read the title and now thought that the whole project was purely advised when nothing could be farther from the truth.

There must have been some sort of shortcoming with SOA to start all this in the first place though, right.

Well, SOA is difficult, right. It's a set of best practices, it's something an organization does, it's not something they buy. And the best practices are not just technology specific; they're more organizational. It's more about business-process-driven business transformation than it is about something you do with software and that's difficult for people to do. So that's really the challenge. I mean getting this stuff right whether it's SOA in particular or architecture in general, it's just difficult for organizations to do.

But basically, architecture consist of best practices, this is if you're doing things right, then you're solving business problems the best way you know how given industry established best practices. That's what all IT shops aspire to and if you're doing something that isn't best practice, then you could be doing better and that's really the challenge. I mean architecture sets a high bar, but that is the bar that organizations need to rise to.

Did this bring out a direct change in SOA to address this SOA is Dead issue?

Well actually, it's the net effect of that blog post has been quite positive because now people are -- some organizations that have been making wrong steps with SOA have had a chance to reevaluate and gotten their projects back on track. And it renewed some of the excitement about SOA in terms architectural best practices in conjunction with some of the challenges the vendors have been having because a number of the vendors, and particularly large vendors, platform players have been trying to co-op the SOA story to make it into a software story with limited success.

And so what they've been doing, well we know IBM in particular, as well as Oracle and some of the others, they've been repositioning their perspective on SOA as best practices, basically taking a solution approach over a product centric approach and that's been a net positive gain for enterprises who are looking to solve real problems.

Would it be safe to say then in this current economy that basically SOA is more important to an enterprise than ever?

Well yes, because the business drivers that indicate that SOA is the right approach are more important than ever. So the key business drivers that SOA is particularly suited to solve are providing for business agility and business empowerment in the context of complex heterogeneous environments. In business agility in particular, it's especially important when economies are tight, when budgets are being cut for a number of reasons.

I mean you still have to keep the lights on, you still have to keep your customers happy, and you still have to comply with regulations, and you still have to roll out new products and services, and position yourself for the recovery. And the more efficiently you can do this, the better. And that's what SOA is about, responding to changing business environment in an efficient cost effective way. And that's especially important when times are tight.

Where do you see SOA for SOA in the future?

Well, it's interesting. That's an interesting part of the story that SOA really is a rather loose collection of best practices. It's not like there's a box of 12 things you have to do, to do SOA and if you miss one then it's not SOA anymore. It's a rather loose collection and it's really more about leveraging the right approach given the problem that you have. So what's happening over time is that SOA best practices are just becoming broadly adopted best IT and enterprise architecture best practices.

And the distinction now between SOA and not SOA is blurring as SOA becomes more and more ubiquitous and more part of the accepted way of doing things. So we see SOA best practices appearing under different names and different contexts. So for example, Software-as-a-Service is becoming more service oriented envisioned. Cloud computing requires SOA to get it right. And it's not like you talk about SOA when you're doing cloud computing necessarily, but you have to do SOA well.

You have to leverage SOA best practices to achieve effective cloud computing. And so SOA is really becoming part of the fabric of how we do things, an evolution of range of architectural best practices that have led to more effective distributed computing. In the scalable Web-based environments, SOA is the next trend where we're saying it's not just Web-based, it's now dealing with any kind of enterprise resource and we're going to deliver business value in a flexible way regardless of how complex your IT shops are.

That makes a lot of sense Jason. This is ebizQ's Peter Schooff, having spoken with Jason Bloomberg of ZapThink. I encourage everyone listening to this podcast to attend the SOA in Action Virtual Conference that will take place on October 28th and 29th. Sign up here.

1 Comment

I spoke at the Burton Group Catalyst conference in the SOA Track immediately after Anne and made the following point..

The solution to Enterprise complexity is to ensure that all the simplistic views of the Enterprise can be coordinated... there are many such views.

Everything is a service (SOA) is an incredibly powerful view.

But within appropriate bounds, everything can also be appropriately viewed as a Process, an Event, an Object, a database table, or other abstraction.

The idea that an enterprise architect could become so focused on "one architecture to rule them all" is as preposterous as "one vendor to rule them all".

hmm I think I am going to go blog this on http://soacenter.com


ebizQ’s expert blog team covers a broad range of BPM, business integration, business analytics/monitoring, collaboration, content and related issues.

Peter Schooff

Peter Schooff is Contributing Editor at ebizQ, and manager of the ebizQ Forum. Contact him at pschooff@techtarget.com

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