Blogger: Anne Thomas Manes
SOA met its demise on January 1, 2009, when it was wiped out by the catastrophic impact of the economic recession. SOA is survived by its offspring: mashups, BPM, SaaS, Cloud Computing, and all other architectural approaches that depend on “services”.
Once thought to be the savior of IT, SOA instead turned into a great failed experiment—at least for most organizations. SOA was supposed to reduce costs and increase agility on a massive scale. Except in rare situations, SOA has failed to deliver its promised benefits. After investing millions, IT systems are no better than before. In many organizations, things are worse: costs are higher, projects take longer, and systems are more fragile than ever. The people holding the purse strings have had enough. With the tight budgets of 2009, most organizations have cut funding for their SOA initiatives.
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.
The demise of SOA is tragic for the IT industry. Organizations desperately need to make architectural improvements to their application portfolios. Service-orientation is a prerequisite for rapid integration of data and business processes; it enables situational development models, such as mashups; and it’s the foundational architecture for SaaS and cloud computing. (Imagine shifting aspects of your application portfolio to the cloud without enabling integration between on-premise and off-premise applications.) Although the word “SOA” is dead, the requirement for service-oriented architecture is stronger than ever.
But perhaps that’s the challenge: The acronym got in the way. People forgot what SOA stands for. They were too wrapped up in silly technology debates (e.g., “what’s the best ESB?” or “WS-* vs. REST”), and they missed the important stuff: architecture and services.
Successful SOA (i.e., application re-architecture) requires disruption to the status quo. SOA is not simply a matter of deploying new technology and building service interfaces to existing applications; it requires redesign of the application portfolio. And it requires a massive shift in the way IT operates. The small select group of organizations that has seen spectacular gains from SOA did so by treating it as an agent of transformation. In each of these success stories, SOA was just one aspect of the transformation effort. And here’s the secret to success: SOA needs to be part of something bigger. If it isn’t, then you need to ask yourself why you’ve been doing it.
The latest shiny new technology will not make things better. Incremental integration projects will not lead to significantly reduced costs and increased agility. If you want spectacular gains, then you need to make a spectacular commitment to change. Like Bechtel. It’s interesting that the Bechtel story doesn’t even use the term “SOA”—it just talks about services.
And that’s where we need to concentrate from this point forward: Services.