Business Transformation in Action

Joe McKendrick

Cloud Formations: Why SOA is Only the Beginning

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I just wrapped up the keynote address for ebizQ's latest Cloud QCamp. exploring the growing convergence of SOA with cloud computing, Enterprise 2.0 and virtualization. Listen to the Webcast here.

David Bressler of Progress Software joined me in the second half of the session for his take on SOA=cloud, followed by a rousing audience Q&A session.

In the session, I discussed the issues that have been weighing on SOA, including perceptions that it is either dead, or the vaporous product of vendor-driven hype. While SOA has actually seen impressive results, especially in terms of IT productivity, but it's success in the business sphere has been, well, spotty. SOA has come to mean "Some Occasional Agility" more than anything else.

But we're clearly moving to a service-oriented way of doing business. And the services businesses will increasingly rely on will originate from a number of places -- they could be SOAP-based services, but they may also be mashups or REST-based services, or they may be coming from the cloud.

And that gets us right to the roots of what SOA is all about. Pure and simple, SOA is about the deployment of loosely coupled services to complete a business process. And it doesn't matter where those services are coming from.

There are four forces converging that are changing the way services are being delivered. There's SOA, of course. And cloud. Then there's virtualization. And Enterprise 2.0. These forces are all interrelated, and all leading to the same thing.

What is this thing? I referred to a term that Dion Hinchcliffe coined -- Web Oriented Architecture. SOA may benefit from WOA (and Enterprise/Web 2.0 in general) because it enables business end users to see and experience online services via composite mashups and cloud computing. SOA could be sold as an internal cloud that provides online services inside the walls of the enterprise. In this regard, WOA makes SOA real to business users.  Plus, enterprise SOA implementations may function as islands of integration that will eventually be assimilated into larger WOAs.

The creation of an internal cloud offers businesses the chance to leverage their existing investments and IT assets within a new service-oriented framework. And when we talk about SOA meaning Some Occasional Agility, perhaps the path to agility is through WOA, enabled by these cloud and Enterprise 2.0 services. 

To wrap up the session, I proposed 10 HBIs -- half-baked ideas -- for the year ahead, and beyond:

  • HBI #1: Less talk about "service oriented architecture" in the market -- but this doesn't mean SOA will have gone away.
  • HBI #2: The new economy emerging from the downturn will drive SOA, WOA, and cloud computing in new directions -- as vehicles for new business growth.
  • HBI #3: The rise of the Intelligent Web -- SOA, WOA and the cloud are turning business intelligence into "collaborative intelligence."
  • HBI #4: The rise of the "Loosely Coupled Business," built on brokered or aggregated services.
  • HBI #5: Computing Power "Too Cheap to Meter?" Thanks to SOA, WOA and the cloud, massive data center power is available for literally pennies.
  • HBI #6: Made to order: Application vendors may begin to look more like "Dells" than "IBMs" as they become assemblers of made-to-order, pre-built software components.
  • HBI #7: Opportunity knocks: Companies will seek services from third parties, providing new opportunities for smaller microbusinesses -- as well as large "cloud combines."
  • HBI #8: Integration, light and simple: Enterprise 2.0 and Web 2.0 is becoming the "Global SOA."
  • HBI #9: SOA, WOA and cloud will increase outsourcing, but outsourcing will take a new form -- fewer mega-deals, more micro-outsourcing.
  • HBI # 10: More business users will be building their own applications. More IT people will be involved in the business.


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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