SOA: Wanted Dead or Alive

Burton Group analyst Anne Thomas Manes set off a storm of IT industry chatter around the viability of SOA when she pronounced that service-oriented architecture is dead and the recession killed it. Manes says the term SOA itself is a problem. However, services and service orientation, as well as mashups, business process management, SAAS and cloud computing-all SOA-related technologies-will continue to gain importance.

The Burton Group's Anne Thomas Manes set off some serious buzz when she proclaimed in a Jan. 5 blog post that SOA is dead, and especially the term service-oriented architecture.

In the post entitled, "SOA Is Dead; Long Live Services," Manes said:

"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 [business process management], SaaS [software as a service], Cloud Computing, and all other architectural approaches that depend on 'services.'"

Manes certainly knows her SOA stuff, as she was formerly CTO of SOA governance software provider Systinet, now a part of Hewlett-Packard. And she helped shape some of the specifications involved in the Web services and SOA world while working at Sun Microsystems and Systinet.

Although Manes said the term "SOA" is no longer viable as a selling point to businesses because it connotes big, expensive projects, she noted that the basic tenets of SOA remain critical.

Said Manes in her thoughtful post:

"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."

Moreover, Manes added: "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."

In an interview, Manes said she wrote the post because she felt it needed to be said that the recession has essentially killed SOA because "nobody is going to buy SOA initiatives this year ... But meanwhile, services and service orientation are more important than ever before. The catastrophic impact of the recession has killed SOA as we know it. But it doesn't change the need to service-orient. The need is more apparent than ever because of the budget tightening."

Indeed, Manes said she thinks organizations are in "desperate need" of application redesign, and services and service orientation is the most efficient way to approach rearchitecture.

Meanwhile, Manes said she has received all kinds of reactions to her post. She said about one-half of the responses have been in agreement with her. About one-third of the responses were in disagreement and "the rest said that maybe 'big' SOA is dead but REST [Representational State Transfer] is going to take over with REST-based services."