Business Transformation in Action

Joe McKendrick

Down-and-Dirty Cloudy Money: The Year Ahead in SOA

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For SOA proponents, the year has started off with a bang, courtesy of our friend Anne Thomas Manes over at Burton Group, who declared SOA to be officially dead as of January 1st.. Actually, Anne didn't declare the drive for integration, reusability and agility across enterprise IT to be dead, but rather the hyped up idea that SOA is some sort of silver bullet for single-handedly achieving these goals. "SOA is Dead, Long Live Services," she wrote, noting that the SOA movement spawned a whole new way of looking at IT as services delivered from the most appropriate sources to end users when and where they need them. Just don;t called it "SOA" anymore.

Fair enough. But I'm still going to call it SOA. And I know the concept of SOA will take its share of abuse over the year ahead, just as it has in recent years, so it would be too obvious to make this a prediction. But here are some other predictions on what 2009 may bring in terms of SOA-related predictions. And it also goes without saying that we'll be seeing lots more "SOA in Action" over the coming year.

1) The rocky economy will cause companies to revisit the roots of SOA -- efficiency and cost cutting. Even when we do see recovery, this won't change the razor-edge competitive environment -- companies will continue to seek solutions that help streamline and cut costs. This is a natural role for SOA-based practices -- remember, Web services and SOA were forged in the wake of the downturn of 2001 as a way to increase IT efficiency and value to the business with minimal additional investments. There will be fewer big-bang SOA projects rolled across the whole enterprise, and many more incremental, bottom-up efforts -- many of which may be under the radar. More "guerrilla SOA," (a la Jim "World Wide" Webber) if you will. SOA will also easier for companies in mergers, acquisitions, or restructurings to reconstitute themselves.

2) More internal clouds and micro-outsourcing. There has been a lot of industry discussion about the "internal cloud," in which services are provided to users and systems within organizations. The beauty of internal clouds, of course, is that they offer more control over applications and data. Clearly a natural role for SOA, which will be the backbone of any emerging internal clouds. As part of this role, expect to see SOA play a greater role in grid computing and virtualization as well. Externally as well, more SOA initiatives will include services from outside the firewall -- a sort of "micro-outsourcing" of application functionality.

3) More attention to the data element. Companies may do a great job of streamlining and leveraging processes, but often ignore the quality and viability of the data flowing through these processes. Which makes for unsuccessful processes and unsuccessful SOA. At a time when "competing on analytics" will make a difference, companies will be paying more attention to the data their SOAs are serving up.

4) More Web 2.0 tools in the SOA world -- and new governance issues.  The convergence of Web 2.0 and SOA practices means more interesting approaches to old problems, such as gathering business intelligence. And mashups -- many of which may even be designed by users themselves under the watchful eyes of IT -- will become the default composite application of choice for accessing services both internally from SOA-enabled systems and externally. Organizations that have already been wrestling with governance issues for SOA will find themselves with the question of how deeply to regulate mashups and other Web 2.0-ish activities.

5) Vendors will de-emphasize SOA as a distinct "product" offering.  If vendors are paying attention to Anne Thomas Manes, they may start running away from the "SOA" moniker. There will be less hype about SOA, but that doesn't mean it will have gone away. New solutions and applications will have service-oriented aspects. Cloud offerings will be built in accordance with SOA principles. There won't be a lot of start-up vendors pitching SOA solutions, but plenty of start-ups will be offering Web 2.0-type and cloud-based services, which will be underpinned by SOA principles.

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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