The Surprising Similarities Between SOA and Fruitcake

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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.

4. Has a long history. Fruitcake has certainly changed from its basic 18th-century origins to today's more sophisticated versions that take into account the latest ingredients without losing sight of the original recipe. This is not unlike the current IT goals behind modernization and protecting existing legacy investments while mapping out and executing the SOA strategy.

5. It's good for you. Filled with nutrients and anti-oxidants, fruitcake is believed to help stave off some illnesses. Likewise, SOA is viewed as a strategic way to use technology to fend off competitive threats that may impact the health of the organization.

6. Needs to cure before it can be consumed. It's well documented how both fruitcake and SOA improve with age. In fact, experts concur that both are best served after they've settled for a period of time to ensure everything has been properly integrated.

7. It's meant to be shared. The very structure of fruitcake indicates that it's designed to be shared among groups of all sizes. And when you think about it, some of the best SOAs are those that have been widely distributed because they tend to blend best practices to make it truly differentiated.

Sadly, it's rather unlikely that the fruitcake will ever reclaim its seat at the head of the table. While SOA adoption continues to rise and on-going projects proliferate, there is a groundswell of finger pointers and naysayers that are casting a negative light on its reputation. Now more than ever is the time to herald our success stories or we may end up with that same nicely wrapped (yet unbearably heavy) fruitcake, er, SOA project, being re-gifted from year to year.

About the Author

Jaimin Patel is director of business development at WebLayers. He has more than 18 years of IT management and software development experience gained from the customer point of view at Fidelity and Bear Stearns as well as the vendor perspective from his roles at CA and Predictive.

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