Looking for SOA in All the Wrong Places?

Systinet’s founding CTO and my friend Anne Thomas Manes pronounced the demise of SOA a few weeks ago. Honestly, SOA lost its meaning for me on the day when good, old Solaris became the “SOA operating system”. But is SOA dead or not? I don’t believe so but I think that Anne and others are looking for SOA in the wrong places. Here is why:

Part of our Systinet SOA pitch was this truism: “SOA is not something you can buy”. We believed that SOA didn’t come in a box and companies have to invest time and money to build it. And maybe this is the crux of the problem. What if the act of building internal service blueprint is beyond the capabilities and budgets of the individual customers? Go to the SOA mailing list and try to understand how to build your own SOA and you can spend the rest of your life reading the discussions and related blogs and comments.

Systinet SOA

My point is that IT departments will always spend most of their budgets keeping the lights on and there is not enough money left for a complete architectural redesign. And even if they decide to throw more money at it they will still not get it right because of lack of internal expertise, lack of vision and simply because it is too hard to rebuild systems that somehow “work”. Every company seems to have a set of requirements that none of the commercial products can ever satisfy and as a result the existing internal architectures are usually completely proprietary. And sediments of bad architectural decisions are nearly impossible to peel off…

Maybe it’s time to forget about this SOA delusion and look someplace else. For companies like Google, Amazon, Workday and others (including my company – Good Data) SOA is not only “yet another IT initiative” but the key differentiator that allows them to deliver a flexible and extensible set of services. And the only way IT departments will be able to “buy SOA” is to use services from the companies in the cloud. The role of proprietary internal architectures will diminish over time as companies move to an increasing number of on-demand services – and that is probably what Anne wanted to say when she declared SOA dead…


  1. Ludek Slegr says:

    I pretty much share this opinion having personal experience with IT organization of a major international company. Cleaning up architecture or moving to a new platform is extremely difficult for the reasons stated earlier, most importantly as it is expensive and painful. The services from the companies in the cloud are a solution for commoditized services and ones without perceived security risk. In this regard, financial crisis and shrinking IT budgets might be effective driver improving things.

  2. The problem is, that SOA as it is proclaimed by multinationals is always the big rebuild… but the point should be elswhere.
    SOA should be seen as a pattern, no as a “thing”, in this point I agree with you. But this pattern should be as well used to connect those somehow “working” systems. And that is the way I see SOA as the point of interrest. But as many have stated, SOA is not only what you do, is how you think and how you do it. I believe SOA not to be dead, but to be waiting to its “spiral” reincarnation. The same as I see Saas as reincarnation of ASP.

  3. What I believe Anne is (also) trying to say is that the underlying principles of service orientation are still very valid and will form the basis for new (?) architectectural paradigms as cloud computing and SaaS.
    A smart customer will no be longer be fooled by a vendor or consultant trying to sell him “SOA in a box”. I have been recently challenged by such a smart (potential) customer to explain exactely how the application of service oriented principles will bring his business value and more important how it will solve some of his concrete and current problems. If we as consultants or vendors are not able to exactely this, then we have caused the death or “SOA” ourselves…
    For now I’ll stick to ‘improving business and IT using service orientation’ and I can even explain how..

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