SOA Is Very Much Alive

Although SOA has taken its share of knocks, both in the press and in popular IT lore, as being expensive, complex and cumbersome, it is very much alive, so says a report from Forrester Research.

SOA is very much alive, so says a report from Forrester Research.

Taking off from the "SOA is dead" discussions that occurred earlier this year, Randy Heffner, a Forrester analyst, authored a new report issued May 11 titled "SOA IS Far From Dead-But It Should Be Buried."

Indeed, in the report, Heffner says SOA should be "buried" inside a larger architectural vision because SOA alone is not enough.

Said Heffner in the report:

""Sparked by a tinderbox of economic jitters and technology backlash, a recent thread of industry discussion cries out, -SOA is dead!' Although many have had fun with the discussion, it is in fact quite misguided. No prior industry initiative for IT architecture has had an impact as positive and broad-reaching as service-oriented architecture (SOA). But SOA's impact is only part of the story: You have many more technology initiatives besides SOA. You need a bigger architectural vision that encompasses SOA, business process management, event processing, Web 2.0, and much more besides. Although SOA is far from dead, it should be buried inside a larger vision.""

Forrester's research bears out that SOA is alive and well. In fact, findings from a Forrester survey of IT executives in North America and Europe showed that 75 percent of these decision makers said their organizations would be using SOA by the end of 2009. And among current SOA users, 60 percent said they would be expanding their use of SOA.

Yet, SOA has taken its share of knocks, both in the press and in popular IT lore, as being expensive, complex and cumbersome. However, Heffner attributes SOA's bad press to misconceptions and misguided strategies. Heffner said the wrong ways to do SOA include misguidedly approaching SOA as merely a technology; misguidedly thinking SOA is like objects and components; misguidedly over-focusing on reuse; misguidedly focusing on a service library rather than a service portfolio; and misguidedly treating SOA as a solution, when really it is only an approach.

"These types of misconceptions and limited strategies give SOA a bad name because their focus on technology separates business value and SOA," Heffner said. "These strategies portray SOA as a technology savior rather than a tool (and a very important tool) in a business value tool box. Even worse, when the difficulties occur that are a natural part of introducing something new, a technology-focused model for SOA provides limited thought processes and models for resolving those difficulties."

Moreover, Heffner's report said to provide the right perspective on how to do SOA, Forrester's guidance for SOA has long focused on key notions including:

  • Treating SOA as a business design concept.

  • Using lightweight strategy to guide delivery of today's business benefits (street-level strategy).

  • Doing integrated, simultaneous design of both business and technology (concurrent business engineering).

  • Using a coherent business service portfolio management process to drive reuse.

  • Approaching all aspects of SOA maturity with an evolutionary mind-set and strategy.

  • Having a variety of strategic and tactical investment approaches for SOA.

SOA helps pave the way for many other technology initiatives, such as legacy application modernization, dynamic business applications, business process management, business activity monitoring, complex event processing, and integrating business services and collaboration into business process flows, said Heffner.

Getting to the heart of his thesis, Heffner said:

""As has been the case for the past three years, Forrester's survey data from late 2008 argues that SOA is an important and valuable initiative for enterprises to pursue and, therefore, for enterprise architects to lead. Recent concerns about SOA are not new; they merely gained greater market attention because of the economic situation and because the industry conversation is finally beginning to place SOA in the broader context of other technology trends and initiatives." "