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Is SOA a Means to an End, or an End in and of Itself?

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From a discussion on LinkedIn is the question: Is SOA a means to an end, or an end in and of itself?

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  • SOA is both means and an ends, which is the nature of architecture. Architecture (service-oriented architecture specifically) is one of the few engineering disciplines that both is a means to achieve a desire result and the result itself. Think about the need to organize services (architectural concern) and well as desire to use them as well (delivery concern). You can treat them separately and myopically, but one does so at risk of losing the benefits that architecture in total.

  • Remember, SOA is an architecture -- ultimately it is the role of architecture to deliver something meaningful for larger purposes. The Romans didn't build temples and forums to achieve "Roman architecture" -- they needed spaces to worship and carry on commerce and stage their quiet, peaceful sporting events. We don't build office buildings so we can achieve "modern architecture" -- we need solid places to work and do business.

    That being said.... architecture is important as a permanent unifying and inspirational force for the activities that will take place within its boundaries. In that sense, it is an end is well. I agree with Jerry that SOA is both a means and an end.

  • I have issue with thinking anything is "the end." Projects end. Companies may end, but normally that's not a sound business strategy. So, if you're thinking that SOA is "the" end-state, or the means to that end-state, you're at great risk of only receiving limited, if any at all, benefit.

    A service oriented view should be something that helps you perform the ongoing portfolio management tasks required to be a mature enterprise. An "end-based" view is likely to be a project-based view, and while it may provide tactical improvements, even potentially large improvements if the project scope is broad, by its very project-based nature it will not product systemic change. It will not change the way the organization determines where it should be investing its IT resources. Whether it's one year later or five years later, the immaturity of these non-project processes will result in another tactical fire-drill attached to whatever the hot three-letter acronym happens to be at the time and things still won't be any better.

  • SOA is not an end to itself. Like any IT architecture and like any IT initiative it is a mean for an end.
    The goals of any organizational IT initiative are Business goals. SOA is designed for achieving better Business and IT alignment.
    Even in the limited scope of IT Architecture, SOA is not an end for itself. It is only a stage in IT Architecture evolution. SOA co-exists with other IT architectures, such as Data Architectures. SOA co-exists with Enterprise Architectures such as TOGAF. SOA failed in many organizations due to lack of Event Driven Architecture to complement it. Is not SOA an architectural mean for implementing Cloud Computing services?
    SOA is a significant and valuable stage, but still only a stage.

  • Definitely a means.

    Like the architecture of a house is a prerequisite for building a home, the idea that SOA could be an end unto itself just seems odd.

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    SOA is an both an approach to building software and a label for finished systems.

    More than either it is a different way of looking at the IS world. Once a person "gets" SOA, their IS world view is never the same again. Paradoxically, once a person "gets" SOA, their world view doesn't materially change again. In the 10 years I have been building SOA systems, my understanding of SOA has become more refined and sophisticated but it has not changed.

    SOA is an end (its all in the head).

  • user-pic

    SOA is both an approach to building software and a label for finished systems.

    More than either it is a different way of looking at the IS world. Once a person "gets" SOA, their IS world view is never the same again. Paradoxically, once a person "gets" SOA, their world view doesn't materially change again. In the 10 years I have been building SOA systems, my understanding of SOA has become more refined and sophisticated but it has not changed.

    More than that, I am no longer capable of building a procedural or object oriented system. SOA informs my every design effort because I have so deeply internalized that SOA is a better way to build software. Perhaps I am more deeply infected than others but, at the same time, my infection can go no deeper.

    SOA is an end. Once you've got it, you've got it.

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