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InfoQ Homepage News Time To Rebalance SOA Portfolios?

Time To Rebalance SOA Portfolios?

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Susan Hall spoke with Gartner analyst Roy Schulte, a specialist in service-oriented architecture and co-author of the 1996 Gartner report that introduced the term SOA to the industry. The original interview can be found on IT Business Edge.

According to Roy Schulte, [Gartner] did a survey of about 250 large companies and found that compared to previous years fewer companies are moving forward with their SOA initiatives in the near future; stating disappointment with the benefits as a reason they are getting out of it.

Schulte found that  the biggest disappointment is the low level of reuse or sharing that they [companies] are getting. He asserts that "the best we ever see is 40 percent reuse and that We [Gartner] considers success anything between 10 and 40 percent". He explains,

The startup cost of SOA is considerable. You have to train your people, you change your development methods and your governance, and often you have to put in an organizational center of excellence to keep track of all your metadata, so there are some startup pains. But then you find that any service you build is only relevant for one business function, so you’re not going to reuse it because no other business function cares about it.

He states that "the more universal benefit from SOA is the modularity, the ability to swap out a module and replace it with a new version of it. You get that if you’re never reusing it at all."

He offered a word of warning for the companies with investments in SOA who were not going to be investing in SOA in the future,

If you’re not doing SOA, you’re going to have informal, ad-hoc interfaces between the components. So you’ll have something that looks a lot like an SOA application, with a lot of the drawbacks and problems of an SOA application, but without the discipline of having documented interfaces. So you’re going to have a much worse time than if you had gone to SOA.

When asked what the companies doing SOA learnt from the experience, He said that

Most of the problems [the companies face] are with governance. The best thing for SOA is a CIO who is thinking clearly and he or she puts in place a systematic program for coordinating the SOA applications across multiple application-development teams and across the different business units. It’s the coordination of SOA where most problems occur. [...] You have several different groups doing SOA independently and they try to coordinate after the fact. You can do it, but it’s really hard.

In conclusion he identified key trends in SOA

  • As [SOA] continues to evolve. In the future, I think most SOA applications will be a mix of all the variations: Web-oriented architecture WOA, and event-driven SOA and the traditional approach. 
  • Microsoft and IBM possibly have gone as far as they’re going to go on Web services standards. [Interoperability will be key when interfaces are not standardized]
  • The other trend is with business-process management. Increasingly, people are using BPM engines with SOA.

Be sure to check out the original interview.

What kinds of service oriented applications being developed in your enterprise?are these the trends you see in your enterprise?  And how are they going to play out given the recent economic events? ZDNets Joe McKendrick acknowledges that priorities will shift but he seems to think the outlook for SOA is bullish in 2008 despite economic factors. 


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Community comments

  • Time To Rebalance SOA Portfolios?

    by Robert Morschel,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    The problem with reuse is that everyone forgets that with the privilege of getting something cheaper, comes the responsibility of playing the reuse game, e.g. upgrading when the service being reused grows, changing your tactical requirements to more generic requirements in order to reuse existing functionality, etc. These game constraints cost, perhaps not in a direct financial sense, but the cost is certainly there, and generally forgotten in all the hype.


  • what a wonderful modularity!

    by Carlo Luib-Finetti,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    So these guys realize that their dreams of reusing modular "services" are rarely fullfilled. And what is their new answer? You have a radical benefit of modularity - if you never reuse your component at all! WOW!

  • Re: what a wonderful modularity!

    by Dilip Krishnan,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    Modularity leads to a variety of benefits in terms of (loose) coupling/cohesion of services in the light of re-usability. However, I believe in the context of the article, the benefit of the modularity Schulte is trying to point out is, change isolation. Making the services 'opaque' allows you to evolve the implementation without causing ripple effects to downstream service consumers.

  • Not Walking the Walk

    by Paul Korney,

    Your message is awaiting moderation. Thank you for participating in the discussion.

    In the last five years, none of the large organizations I've visited have actually implemented any aspect of SOA except for using some of the typical technologies like WS*. All the efforts I've seen are the same old project oriented, point solutions; only now they claim to be doing SOA based on using WS* or similar tech.
    The problem is that Gartner asks the wrong questions of the wrong people, and now find SOA less popular among companies that probably weren't doing it in the first place.
    Those companies that truly understand how to apply IT in their business operations were doing SOA long before the term was invented. And the ones that don't, wouldn't even know that they're not really doing SOA.

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