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"Will SOA go the way of the fruitcake?"

Now there's a question you may not have anticipated. With all of the recent conversations about reduced budgets, staff consolidation and whether or not SOA is actually worthwhile, the question "will SOA go the way of the fruitcake?" may at first seem like lighthearted banter for the office holiday party. However, upon closer examination, there's actually much more to it.

So what exactly does SOA have to do with fruitcake? Well, if you trace the history of SOA and fruitcake, you'll find several interesting parallels. These coincidences should serve as warning signs that if not managed properly, the value and reputation of an SOA initiative, and those involved in it, is at risk of being exiled to the land of the holiday fruitcake.

Here are seven commonalities between the history of fruitcake and SOA:

1. Wildly popular when first introduced. Sure, it started off small with experimentation among pockets of the population but it wasn't long before fruitcake fever spread. Soon there were fruitcakes everywhere and along with them came variations on the original theme, sometimes with vastly different results. Today, there's no question that SOA will continue to dominate the dialog among IT and business professionals, with some industry analysts predicting the market will reach over $17 billion by 2011. Yet without the proper strategy, the return on SOA investments can also deliver vastly different results.

2. Unfairly maligned. Blame fruitcake's bad rap on those few who loudly proclaim that it doesn't appeal to their tastes. Odds are, their experience is based on a single bite of one that wasn't properly made or was created using inferior ingredients. The same can be said of SOA failures. In many instances, engaging senior management, instilling governance policies, and taking an incremental approach to the SOA journey, for example, can avoid missteps.

3. Temporarily banned. Believe it or not, fruitcake was once considered "sinfully rich" and was banned throughout Europe for a time. Perhaps this mindset is not unlike our contemporaries who believe SOA projects should be put on hold until the economy is on more stable ground. Companies need to realize that halting SOA initiatives would actually be detrimental to a company's ability to compete more effectively because the very nature of a service oriented architecture is based on doing more with less while protecting and reusing existing assets.


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