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Business Transformation in Action

Joe McKendrick

Will Web Oriented Architecture Leave Slowa-SOA in the Dust?

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There's been quote a bit of discussion raging across the blogosphere as of late around the emerging concept of WOA, or Web Oriented Architecture, that may represent the the next phase of evolution of service oriented architecture.

Essentially, WOA is another way of describing the application of the Web 2.0-style technologies and methodologies, such as Ajax, REST, and Software as a Service, to enterprise requirements. Put another way, it's running an enterprise from the Cloud, versus onsite servers, hardware, and software.

Many observers are groaning at the introduction of yet another Three Letter Acronym to our already TLA-burdened lexicon. (See Mike Meehan's post here, and Dana Gardner's post here.) Apparently, many IT architects and practitioners are also rolling their eyes at this one.

However, the WOA phenomenon is something to pause and think about in terms of its long-term (and short-term, for that matter) implications for SOA.

Dion Hinchcliffe, the leading thinker in all things WOA, says that there's no reason why much of the internal enterprise functionality we look to in SOA can't be shifted to the Cloud. In fact, WOA leverages the World Wide Web, which Dion describes as “the largest SOA presently in existence.? The services that are built for WOA are built from lightweight Web 2.0 standards and methodologies, especially REST and enterprise mashups. He also describes enterprise-based SOA as “local networks.?

Dion notes that “both approaches leverage HTTP, self-describing data formats such as XML, are concerned about the use of open standards, and can be used to build systems of arbitrary complexity.? However, while SOAs “tend to have a small and well-defined set of endpoints through which many types of data and data instances can pass, WOAs tend to have a very large and open-ended number of endpoints; one for each individual resource. Not an endpoint for each type of resource, but a URI-identified endpoint for each and every resource instance.?

He also observes that while “SOA was designed from the top-down by vendors to be tool friendly, WOA was emerged form the bottom up from the Web naturally, and has the best support in simple procedural code and an XML parser.? Plus, very importantly, while “traditional SOA is fairly cumbersome to consume in the browser and in mashups, WOA is extremely easy to consume just about anywhere.?

In a recent email exchange with a group of us analysts who have been debating the merits of creating another TLA, Dion defended the WOA designation, noting that it needs to be set apart from standard SOA approaches:

"WOA simply reflects the set of emergent network and application architectures that are working today on a large scale on the Web, getting results for a great many organizations by using slightly different techniques and a fairly different mindset than we've used in SOA. This has become increasingly evident in the many WOA success stories over the last half decade that are producing pretty darn dramatic ROI numbers for many businesses large and small (happy to share these)."

SOA as we've known it has just been too cumbersome and complicated, Dion said. "I spent five years building SOAs from 2001-2006 and have been appalled at the cost/benefit ratio."

He notes that the simpler, more rapidly deployable model that WOA offers an incomparable value proposition to slowa-SOA. "Global SOA on the Internet is producing impressive results today with WOA techniques and a quick survey of Programmable Web's hundreds of WOA-style APIs or WidgetBox/Google Gadgets can demonstrate it has already greatly surpassed our traditional SOA models in terms of industry adoption, at least on the biggest network there is. It's the local SOAs in our enterprises that are the ones having the problems."

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In this blog (formerly known as "SOA in Action"), Joe McKendrick examines how BPM and related business and IT approaches can promote business transformation.

Joe McKendrick

Joe McKendrick is an author and independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. View more

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