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Ronan Bradley's FinanceTech Directions

Ronan Bradley

SOA like all good architectures won't die - but it may just fade into the background for many

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I contributed to the recent ebizq discussion forum debate on "Is SOA dead?". The title should really have been: Was SOA killed by the recession? My view is that in many organizations, SOA as a banner project will indeed disappear - although it will continue to prosper in some industries where it is now mainstream and well proven. However, even if SOA isn't the headline, the SOA mindset will benefit future infrastructure projects and as is often the case with technology waves, will become part of the background to the next wave of integration architecture which I believe will be data integration centric.

The debate on the death of SOA was an echo of Anne Thomas Mane's controversial blog post of the same title. Her thesis is that SOA has been badly hit by the recession as she puts it:

"SOA met its demise on January 1, 2009, when it was wiped out by the catastrophic impact of the economic recession"

However she goes on to move the blame away from the recession

"It's time to accept reality. SOA fatigue has turned into SOA disillusionment. Business people no longer believe that SOA will deliver spectacular benefits. "SOA" has become a bad word. It must be removed from our vocabulary."

As Gartner spotted a few years ago, IT trends follow a pretty predictable path from hype to crash to becoming part of the landscape. Therefore, we shouldn't be surprised to see many organizations and some industries back off SOA - particularly when the service oriented concept really doesn't fit into their main business (for instance investment banking for the most part is more comfortable with an event driven architecture).

Conversely, we shouldn't ignore the fact that some industries find SOA a great fit - such as insurance (as reinforced by Software AG's announcement of a major Chinese insurance company committing to SOA as a vehicle for growth).

However, while I agree with Anne's general point that SOA is looking tired, I am not as concerned about the long term impact as Anne is:

"The demise of SOA is tragic for the IT industry. Organizations desperately need to make architectural improvements to their application portfolios."

Even where SOA does not remain as the headline project, the benefits will continue to accrue - particularly with regard to the focus on governance and development of best practise and structures within the organisation to promote appropriate cooperation and pooling of expertise around integration. I recall much of what is now called SOA governance being in place in the large international banks which attempted to adopt CORBA back in the 1990s. As such SOA has acted as a vehicle for transferring the learning these leading organisations had developed to a much broader set of companies. Therefore, even if the SOA project is deemed to have failed, the organization has probably learnt much about how to solve the necessary complexity of many integration projects.

And finally, if SOA isn't the headline what is? Unfortunately for many, for the next while the project headlines will be utterly pragmatic: do whatever maximizes the chances of short term survival. However, I believe that over the last year (at least) we have seen the beginning of the next major IT trend: data integration (yes - I know data integration isn't new but what is now emerging is new and significant). This is a trend which both builds on the SOA legacy (I am firm believer than SOA naturally brings the emphasis back to data integration) and provides a pragmatic and credible solution to immediate business challenges.


Ronan Bradley's blog on infrastructure technology news and trends in the retail banking, captial markets and beyond.

Ronan Bradley

Ronan Bradley has specialized in business integration technologies and their application for over 15 years, View more

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