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Is SOA Everywhere?

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Joe McKendrick: While some viewed SOA as failed or dead, a different reality may have taken root. That is, everything about IT -- developing, integrating, embedding, and modeling -- is now done in a service-oriented way, or with service orientation as the goal. Have SOA principles become so ubiquitous they have simply melded into the background?

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  • Let's just say the desire for SOA and the hype of SOA is everywhere. A good SOA is hard to find!

  • This is a very interesting question given that it has become the vogue to call the death of SOA's. In my view (having been an SOA vendor before) SOA had immense value but was too hard to understand for most non-architects. Therefore, rather than calling its failure, I would say it never really took off.

    Rather, Web Services are everywhere and they just became part of the EAI landscape. An integral part nonetheless, but not from a monetary standpoint.

    Contrast that with "customer facing" concepts such as social media and mobile and you will notice the difference. My interest now is whether cloud will face the same "invisibility" effect of SOA concepts :-))

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    Yes and no. I hate that SO principles are obfuscated by technology. I have reviewed them (http://www.ebizq.net/blogs/service_oriented/2009/02/), found that some of them are technology-oriented and re-defined some of them

  • This is a very interesting question indeed. As I pondered over the answer, I was reminded of the story of a very talented painter named Zeuxis, who could paint amazingly life-like pictures. Once he painted a painting of a boy carrying a basket of ripe red cherries. When he hung this painting outside his door, some birds flew down and tried to carry the cherries away. "Ah! this picture is a failure," he said. "For if the boy had been as well painted as the cherries, the birds would have been afraid to come near him."

    The moral of the story is that if an SOA is done correctly, it should meld into the background rather than sticking out like a sore thumb. Conversely, good SOAs are hard to find not because they don't exist but because they have become part of the fabric of the enterprise.

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    The question assumes there is universal acceptance of what a "SOA" actually is. If we can't agree on a definition for it how can we ever hope to find it? I personally believe that classifying solutions as "SOA" and "not SOA" are a waste of time. The top priority should be ensuring that the solution meets the business needs of the organization - everything else is a distraction.

  • Well everything is not for everyone. You don’t require an SOA approach if are building tiny shopping carts for your haberdasher clients – who may be out of business in a few months! Yes, for these guys SOA is like jet fuel for a hatchback so it might as well be dead.

    Acceptance of any technology or an approach on the other hand is a long drawn process where the key is mostly based on generalization or how well you can express repeatable blocks of information which can sustain over a long period of time and help an enterprise reap sustainable benefits.

    I believe SOA is such a concept which is slowly breaking the sustenance barrier and by the time people realize it will be just an obvious thing which doesn’t require a mention!

  • It is an interesting question indeed. SOA is already Mainstream. In most surveys approximately 50% already started implementing SOA and the other half will follow soon. For example,a survey of 406 companies conducted by Gartner DataQuest in June and July 2009 reported that 48% of respondents were already using SOA somewhere in their operations, and all of the remaining 52% expected to be using SOA within 12 months.
    Cloud Computing will accelerate SOA services usage.
    However, I agree with John different people use different SOA definitions (see my posts Defining SOA http://avirosenthal.blogspot.com/2007/12/definig-soa.html and SOA and SCS http://avirosenthal.blogspot.com/2007/12/soa-and-scs.html).
    The real problem is that implementing SOA according to some of the definitions has no Business Value Proposition.

  • I would argue that SOA, in terms of 'Architecture', has been around for many years going back to the 80s in projects that were well designed and implemented. It's very simple to go looking at old code and seeing the code that is well architected and that which is not. Well designed and written code is written in a SOA way. Many people respond that SOA is not about the technology but we can talk until the cows come home about something but until you actually do something rather than talk about it or plan it, it doesn't help anything. Doing something involves using some technology at some point. In summary I would argue that SOA is everywhere and has been everywhere for many years. What is different now is that we have standards like web services that can help us to enable services to talk between platforms and technologies more easily and quickly than heretofore.

  • John makes an important point - the question assumes we agree on what SOA is, which I would submit is still far from being the case. I've been in this industry long enough to know that labels like "SOA" are not terribly important. What is important is the principles behind them, and those principles are indeed becoming mainstream - slowly but surely.

  • Well put, Jim. The architectural principles are strong and being universally applied in one form or another. Not necessarily qualifying as "SOA." Few, if any, companies have reached the SOA vision. But most are now somewhere on the continuum.

  • I agree most with JP that the hype is alive and well. But I think that John's point about 'SOA being around for years' is the crux of the problem. My view is that many 'architects' have tried to shortcut SOA by focusing on invoking web services and thinking they're using SOA. Let me be clear -- in my opinion they are not. Unfortunately only a few are designing a ground-up SOA architecture to build upon.

    There seems to be a general lack of desire to focus on the software and systems engineering piece and instead jump right into the writing of code. Without the appreciation of SOA principles people will continue to bastardize SOA implementations and muddy SOA definitions. And the worst part is that this leaves it open to the technology providers to increase the confusion and mold the "marketing" definitions to be what best supports the selection of their tools.

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