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Do You Think the Pervasive Use of Cloud Computing Will Expand or Contract the Use of SOA?

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An important question for practitioners of Cloud and SOA, and one that will be covered at the SOA in Action Virtual Conference.

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  • To build enterprise class solutions in the cloud, companies can no longer hide their deficiencies behind their firewall (perimeter security). Application security will need to be robust (finally) and the data layer will need to be loosely coupled with the rest of the architecture to meet various consumer privacy and regulatory concerns. This screams for SOA. The problem is, not many companies have a good track record with SOA. So I say the requirements for building secure, enterprise ready applications and services in the cloud should drive the use of SOA. What I can't predict is how many companies will actually be successful with SOA, the cloud, and the combination of the two. At the end of the day, the question is how good is your IT team, not how good is SOA and cloud computing. SOA and cloud computing are the architects' tools, not the answer.

  • Cloud will expand SOA, big time. A lot of cloud activity will be inter or intra-enterprise -- services will need to be governed, orchestrated, and reusable. A job for SOA!

  • How does my marketing guy Jason put it? Cloud without SOA is like a running beer tap, with no cups.

    Maybe he's got beer-oriented architecture on his mind, but the point is for this really cool, flexible delivery model to be applied for serious enterprise work, it is going to need a very flexible and well thought-out back-end architecture to support it. We are going to want to do much more than just host neat little point applications or one-off Services in the Cloud, and that means integration between partners, and aligning functionality faster around customer needs - ideal conditions for SOA as the substrate.

  • This very topic was discussed on a panel I moderated on SOA at today's 1105 Group's EA Conference. It does seem that there is a growing tendency to link each new IT initiative that emerges these days to all the others. So much so it's beginning to sound like acronym soup -- "you need your SOA to facilitate your BPM and Cloud efforts." Yet, there is still very little agreement on what SOA is, so how can SOA expand or contract relative to Cloud Computing?

    Ask a technologist this question and the answer will be yes, ask a business person and the response will be, "what value does SOA provide to my Cloud effort." If the Cloud is merely an opportunity to reduce costs, SOA buys you very little. If your decision to use Cloud Computing has to do with providing an infrastructure for the deployment and delivery of services, then it is part of your SOA, not orthogonal to it and hence extends the usage of SOA.

    • JP, sounds like we're all in kinda violent agreement overall.

      When you talked about asking the business person, I immediately thought about my Dad. He ran a 400 person accounting firm in NYC and was always sooooo proud of their use of computers and their server room. But he never had any idea about how it all worked. He just knew it helped the firm meet their objectives and make his people more productive.

      So I think it's in the way you'd ask "the business person". You have to ask if they think it's important to do "X". If they say yes, if you explain that in order to achieve the outcomes they're looking for that SOA is a key part of accomplishing that, they'd say that SOA is very important. But if they don't understand the role that SOA might play in delivering that business outcome, how could they value SOA?

      • 20 years ago, I would agree that business people were much less tech-savvy. I don't believe that problem is as prevalent today. Moreover, business is supposed to be on target with SOA and a supporter of SOA. Hence, they should understand the value of SOA to their goals. If you say you need X to do Y, then of course someone is going to say, "yes, we need to do X." That said, there's also no indications that Cloud Computing efforts cannot be successful where there is not also an SOA effort underway. It's completely dependent upon the goals of the Cloud Computing initiative.

  • It will depend in the way information is exchanged between applications within the cloud and the way organization consumes them. Well, given the promise of reusable, granular, decoupled services, and especially with a common data format (schema based) - SOA will definitely benefit, no doubt that. Security though will have to be dealt with cautiously as WS interoperability may pose a deterrent from a platform perspective as most WS-Security based implementations have a dubious distinction of not being interoperable.

  • A while back (2007) I had written an article in ebizQ titled Leveraging Synergies: RTI and SOA Unite in which I talk about using RTI (think an internal, private cloud) and SOA together for two main reasons:

    1. They share similar objectives
    Both RTI and SOA seek to maximize ROI albeit at different layers of the technology stack; RTI at the infrastructure (hardware) layer and SOA at the business application (software) layer.

    2. They complement each other
    Using one concept (SOA or RTI) without the other leads to an impedance mismatch between the infrastructure and application layers resulting in suboptimal benefits realization.

    The same logic applies to application architecture targeted to cloud environments. In fact, you could say that the cloud is the "A" in SOA :). With clouds, SOA has a winning partnerhsip such that if there were ever any doubts about the long-term strategic benefits of SOA, clouds help alleviate most if not all of them.

  • Cloud will give SOA something to do. As organizations increase their utilization of the cloud, they will realize that they must draw on the lessons of SOA to make this environment secure and manageable. Architects need to understand that cloud is actually an excellent deployment model for SOA.

    Right now we are still in the gold rush days of cloud computing. Solutions are being developed and deployed rapidly--often deliberately outside of existing methodology. The applications stand-alone and don’t need to integrate with other systems. Everyone recognizes that the cloud comes with unresolved security and manageability questions; we tiptoe around these by not deploying mission-critical apps, or migrating sensitive data to public providers.

    Cloud, however, is a good idea and organizations will inevitably demand more from it. IT departments will move increasingly important business applications into the cloud. To be successful, they will need to apply the principles of SOA. The focus that SOA puts on granular and loosely coupled services, its emphasis on governance, and the methodology and technology it offers for widespread service deployment is entirely applicable to cloud computing. Cloud done right will be cloud done as a SOA.

  • I don't think there is any doubt that cloud will expand SOA. Cloud is indeed in its early stages. I recently worked with a client who had implemented a cloud solution from one of my consulting customers. Their greatest fear was that their customers would find out they had implemented something as 'new and untried" as cloud.

    I agree with Scott - SOA's emphasis on governance and its methodology is totally applicable to the cloud.

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