SOA versus WOA

Service Oriented Architecture and it’s promises are now being assessed by enterprises. There are some success stories but for the most part SOA is coming up short of the outcomes made by consultants and sales people and IT experts.

What exactly is SOA? Here is the elevator pitch from John Reynolds

SOA is an architectural style that encourages the creation of loosely coupled business services. Loosely coupled services that are interoperable and technology-agnostic enable business flexibility. An SOA solution consists of a composite set of business services that realize an end-to-end business process. Each service provides an interface-based service description to support flexible and dynamically re-configurable processes.

In order to succeed with a fundamentally sound solution, the SOA disciples need to look at WOA or Web Oriented Architecture. Not so much for the technology but from the culture that makes WOA a very fast moving and user acceptable and supported path to follow. If traditional IT lead initiatives could achieve the success and acceptance that WOA has enjoyed recently then things could be a lot different for everyone involved – the CIOs, the business and the people using technology in their business.

But the enterprise is not the Web (Dion Hinchcliffe)

While heavyweight top-down IT can certainly do a lot of good for a certain class of business problems, it’s not the right answer to everything. At its basic level, IT is good for ensuring some basic level of consistency to enable interoperability between corporate systems, safeguard data compatibility, the provide long term safety of corporate knowledge and systems, and as it turns out, give us the ability to access and exploit the vast, unique, and competitively vital repositories of knowledge that have built up inside most organizations.

Thanks to Google (which truly embodies WOA and the web model) information, data and collective intelligence is within our reach – almost instantly. Legacy IT systems on the other hand are often disjointed and since most are based on proprietary data standards they lack the interchange and open data standards that make WOA successful.

Why is it hard for enterprises to make the move to WOA…

  • the silo mindset of traditional IT leaders and IT vendors based on their concept of ‘ownership’ of everything within their view;
  • and the legacy infrastructure systems based on this mindset.

I’m a big fan of cloud computing, portals (aka mash-ups), interchange of data between systems, APIs, protection of corporate data and access to this data in a quick and easy way. Why? Because I have been a victim of disjointed data which made it difficult for me to perform my job as a manager and to be a productive contributor to the organization. As a provider of IT services, I’ve seen many of our clients struggle with disjointed data systems. I’ve also seen many creative solutions cooked up by users of technology. Most were not very elegant but they solved the business problems that these legacy systems created.

Don’t worry – it isn’t the end of the world and you don’t need to burn the data centre to the ground and start all over again. By combining SOA (the good parts at least) with WOA success can be achieved. The big question is whether the IT department will lead the parade or be delegated to just keeping the legacy systems working. At least until they fade away. Will the Web Services department be elevated to the role of leading the enterprise in this new world? Consider it a possibility. Of course you’ll need to pry them away from the Marketing department.

Dean Owen


Google – the ultimate IT service provider?

If you think Google is just a search engine, then come out of your cave and take a good look around you. Google might just be the ultimate IT service provider. If not now then certainly in the near future. After reading through Jason Hiner’s Tech Republic post on Gartner’s view on Google’s role as an IT service provider I want you to think about your current IT department and the services they provide. Particularly if you are a small business struggling with internal and/or external IT service providers. Is Google in your future?

For what it’s worth, we use Google a lot . . . for search as well as Google docs and Gmail. I like the idea of being able to access my documents and email anywhere, anytime from any computer. I still use Microsoft Office occasionally but more out of habit and familiarity. When the next version of MS Office comes out I plan on moving over to software as a service/cloud computing and save myself a lot of money.

The statement from Gartner that caught my eye was this,

Google is disruptive and disruptive technologies produce big winners and big losers,” Hunter (Gartner Vice President Richard Hunter) said, “One of the big losers is potentially traditional IT departments.”

What other disruptive technologies are in recent memory (mine at least)?

  • personal computing – Apple and Microsoft were the rebels back in the day!
  • world wide web – it’s everywhere!
  • wireless networking – it allows us to work anywhere, a huge convenience!
  • cell phones – and the evolution of smart phones and mobile computing!

I remember when these things first appeared and how disruptive they were to the status quo of traditional IT operations and even corporate work flows. Can you tell me which one of these your company could live without? Is Google’s disruptive technology going to become the next can’t live without? For some it all ready is.

As to the statement “big winners and big losers“, there are always great business opportunities when paradigms change. Traditional IT departments are already being eroded and the model of services which Google brings to the world might finish them off completly. Don’t get me wrong, I love IT and have great faith in IT departments, but they need to evolve their operations whether it’s in application development through agile development or on the operations side by understanding and applying utility computing strategies.

To finish off this post, let me tell you about a meeting I had with a potential client. This was a small company but they had business units spread across four western Canadian provinces. They had one full time IT person, the manager, one part-time tech and called in local service providers in their remote locations when needed. The IT manager was late to the meeting because he was struggling with the email server and it’s erratic behaviours. He had screwdrivers in his shirt pocket. He looked tired. His phone rang four times in twenty minutes. He had to leave early because the email server went down – again. The business manager was receptive to what I had to say but the IT manager was too distracted by his email server problems to truly focus on the value of my presentation. To me the pain point was obvious, the value of the solution was obvious. I didn’t get a contract out of this meeting and after doing my follow-up with the business manager I found out that they hired a full-time junior tech to help out. Did they ever solve their email server problems? According to the business manager – sort of. It didn’t go down as often after two weeks of dedicated work from the IT manager. 

The solutions I offered consisted of disruptive technologies – cloud computing, utility computing services, outsourcing of basic infrastructure tasks and an IT strategy based on industry best practices such as ITIL.

I guess they weren’t quite ready to be disrupted.