Where SOA Meets Cloud

David Linthicum

The Truth behind Standards, SOA, and Cloud Computing

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Many in the world of cloud computing consider cloud computing as a new space that needs new standards. The fact is, most of the standards we've worked on in the world of SOA over the past several years are applicable to the world of cloud computing. Cloud computing is simply a change in platform, and the existing architectural standards we leverage should transfer nicely to the cloud computing space. You can consider SOA as something you do, and cloud computing as a place to do it.

Standards are a double edged sword; they clearly provide some value by protecting you from vendor-specific standards, in this case, cloud lock-in. However, they can delay things as enterprise ITs wait for the standards to emerge. Moreover, they may not live up to expectations when they do arrive, and not provide the anticipated value.

Standards should be driven by existing technologies, rather than by trying to define new standards approaches for new technologies. While the latter does occasionally work, more often it leads to design-by-committee and poor technology. Past failures around standards should make this less of an issue in the world of cloud computing.

So, when considering SOA and cloud computing standards, take a few things into consideration:

• Standards should be driven by three or more technology vendors that actually plan to employ the standard. Watch out for standards that include just one vendor and many consulting organizations. Or, are just driven by marketing.

• Standards should be well-defined. This means the devil is in the details, and a true standard should be defined in detail all the way down to the code level. Conceptual standards that are nothing but white papers are worthless.

• Standards should be in wide use. This means that many projects leverage this standard and the technology that uses the standard, and they are successful with both. In many instances you'll find that standards are still concepts, and not yet leveraged by technology consumers.

• Standards should be driven by the end users, not the vendors. At least, that's the way it should be in a perfect world. While the vendors may have had a hand in creating the standards, the consumers of the technology should be the ones driving the definition and direction. Standards that are defined and maintained by vendors often fail to capture the hearts and minds, while standards maintained by technology consumers typically provide more value for the end user and thus live a longer life.

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This blog is your first step toward understanding the issues you will face as cloud computing and SOA converge. The movement to cloud computing is a disruptive change that IT departments will soon face as SOA and cloud computing begin to have an effect on the modern enterprise. IT managers must learn how to give as well as take information in this new, shareable environment, while still protecting their company's interests. Innovative companies will take advantage of these new resources and reinvent themselves as unstoppable forces in their markets. Those who don't take advantage of this revolution will become quickly outdated, perhaps out of business.

David Linthicum

David Linthicum is the CTO of Blue Mountain Labs, and an internationally known distributed computing and application integration expert. View more

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