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

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