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The Connected Web

Phil Wainewright

Cloud Hype Heralds SOA's Heyday

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Gartner has published its annual 'hype cycle' report, mapping where various emerging technologies lie on the journey from overblown expectation through premature rejection before they finally achieve mainstream acceptance. As Joe McKendrick reports on ZDNet, cloud computing "is now at the pinnacle of hype (no surprise there, right?)," while service-oriented architecture (SOA) is now beginning to climb what Gartner calls the 'slope of enlightenment' towards productive adoption.
I find this an interesting conjunction, since I've sometimes referred to cloud computing as "SOA done right". There's no doubt that SOA is the technology foundation for many of the things that we take for granted across the spectrum of cloud activities, from infrastructure services to SaaS applications. Beneath all the cloud hype, SOA is sitting there unnoticed, making it all work. This is exactly what you'd expect in the 'slope of enlightenment' phase, which Joe sums up thus:

"Being on the slope of enlightenment is typically the stage where vendors, analysts and pundits are no longer gushing about how wonderful and world-shattering the technology/methodology is. Nor are they ranting on about what a flop the thing is. Instead, it's the roll-up-your-sleeves stage, when companies and their technology professionals are getting down and making the stuff actually work."

The reason cloud brings out the best in SOA, in my view, is that the connected, Web-oriented environment demands properly designed services that can be consumed without knowing any of the internal details. Too often, early SOA infrastructures were built within an enterprise by developers who built assumptions into their services that meant the architecture was closed to outside services that didn't share those assumptions. This eliminated a large part of the advantage of SOA, leading to disappointment. Worse still, too many of these private SOA infrastructures were built without a clear idea of what they'd be used for. As Joe notes in another posting, this error is being replicated now in private cloud initiatives:
"Gartner analyst Tom Bittman warns that IT professionals building private clouds may be making the same mistakes as with SOA — that is, putting technology ahead of business requirements. He advised against building a cloud 'and hoping they will come'."

This kind of exercise goes to the heart of why hype about a new technology is so often followed by disillusion. People get the wrong end of the stick and try to deploy it in ways that are based on their prior experience, not realizing that by doing so they're hobbling its capabilities. That's exactly what's happening now with cloud computing. Meanwhile, SOA is quietly proving its worth.

Phil Wainewright blogs about how businesses are using the Web to get better plugged into today's fast-moving, digital economy.

Phil Wainewright

Phil Wainewright specializes in on-demand services View more

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