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SOA and Cloud: What is in store for 2012?

Traditionally on the brink of a new year, independent analysts and experts share their predictions and this time around we are sharing some relevant ones in the SOA and Cloud space for 2012. This year the common themes underpinning all SOA and Cloud predictions are the rapid changes occuring in Big Data and the consumerization of IT through mobile and open APIs.

Joe McKendrick, one of the co-authors of the SOA Manifestoshared seven industry trends in the SOA space that seem to be growing and will be the focus in 2012.

1. SOA and cloud will underpin successful Big Data analytics deployments: SOA, cloud and social media are turning business intelligence into “collaborative intelligence.” But getting there requires managing Big Data applications in a service-oriented way — through strategies such as data virtualization.
2. Computing power “too cheap to meter:” thanks to SOA and the cloud, massive data center power is available for literally pennies: Cisco’s latest Global Cloud Index finds that organization’s data centers will be moving to the cloud in a big way.  And, by extension, chances are organizations will be cloud providers as much as cloud vendors.
3. More business users will be building their own applications. More IT people will be involved in the business: There has been no shortage of talk about the chasm, and lack of alignment, between IT and businesspeople. Now, many users are taking their own initiatives, bringing in their own technology to bear on business problems. At the same time, IT staff are gaining a greater understanding and focus on business issues. These are two interlinked trends that started a few years back in earnest, and we’ll see it really come to fruition in 2012.
4. Cloud and SOA will mean career advancement opportunities for IT executives and managers: As found in a survey of 685 CIOs by CA Technologies a majority, 54%, believe that cloud computing has enabled them to spend more time on business strategy and innovation. The CA survey also found that CIOs who have adopted cloud computing seem to be more driven to advance in their companies than their non-cloud-adopting peers.
5. The lines between software providers and consumers will blur even more, and more ‘non-IT’ companies will evolve into software providers: Gartner, for one, believes much of what IT does is being absorbed into lines of business. But, perhaps, what’s really happening is not that IT is dissolving; it’s that the entire enterprise is becoming IT.  The lines have already been blurring between non-IT companies and software companies to the point where you can’t tell the two apart.
6. Cloud will continue to disrupt the outsourcing model: A more modularized form of outsourcing will take root because the growing standardization and “hot-swappability” of cloud services and components makes it easier to outsource pieces of the IT infrastructure.
7. “SOA” and “Cloud” will begin to fade as a differentiating terms — because it will just be the way we do things: We’re now getting to the point where everything we deploy is done in a service-oriented way, and cloud is being simply accepted as the delivery platform for applications and services. Cloud will keep on coming on stronger than ever before, but, ironically, it may also soon begin to seem more ho-hum and routine than a grand paradigm shift. As has happened with SOA over the past two years, expect to see vendors this year begin to recognize this ho-hum factor and move on to new buzzwords.  But SOA didn’t — and isn’t going anywhere, either.

Joe summarizes with a few lines on the service oriented way of conducting business:

We’re clearly moving to a service-oriented way of doing business. And the services businesses will increasingly rely on will originate from a number of places — they could be SOAP-based services, but they may also be mashups or REST-based services, or they may be coming from the cloud. And that gets us right to the roots of what SOA is all about: the deployment of loosely coupled services to complete a business process.

This partly explains the growing number of APIs, which is expected to continue and proliferate other API trends in 2012, as predicted by Dr. Ananth Jhingran from Apigee:

1. Enterprise APIs become mainstream: I see a lot of discussion about Facebook, Twitter and other public APIs. However, the excitement of these public APIs hides the real revolution. Namely, enterprises of all sizes are API-enabling their back-end systems. This opens up the aperture of the use of back-end systems, not just through apps built by the enterprise, but also through apps built by partners and independent developers.
2. API-centric architectures will be different from portal-centric or SOA-centric architectures: Websites (portals) are for people integration. Service-orientated architectures (SOA) are for app-to-app integration. While both websites and SOA use back-end systems through "internal" APIs, the new API world focuses on integration with apps and developers, not with people (via portals) or processes (via SOA).
3. Data-centric APIs will become increasingly common: Siri and WolframAlpha are great examples of data-centric APIs. The first thing enterprises like this are doing is to API-enable their data. Now, RESTifying data is not easy, and there are as many schools of thought on how best to do it as there are data providers. However, I expect some combination of conventional and de facto standards, such as the Open Data Protocol (OData), to become increasingly common. I do not believe that the semantic web or the Resource Description Framework (RDF) model of data interchange is the answer. It goes against the grain of ease of use and adoption.
4. Many enterprises will implement APIs just to get analytics: A common theme in enterprise technologies is that a spend happens first in business automation and second in business optimization. he API-adoption juggernaut is currently focused on business automation. However, as more and more traffic flows through the APIs, analytics on these APIs provides an increasingly better view of the performance of the enterprise, thereby benefiting IT and business optimizations. If this trend continues and if business optimization is the ultimate goal, a logical conclusion is that APIs become a means to the end for optimization.
5. APIs will be optimized for the mobile developer: In 2012, many providers will realize they need to:
  • Let developers filter the size and content of the API response before it's returned to the app.
  • Give developers the right format for their app environment — plist for iOS and JSONP for HTML5/JavaScript.
6. OAuth 2.0 as the default security model: OAuth 2.0 makes it easy for end users to adopt new apps because they can test them out. If they don't like or don't trust an app, users can terminate the app's access to their account. In 2012, this will be the default choice for securing APIs that enable end-users to interact through apps with their valued services.

Dion Hinchcliffe, business strategist and EA, joins Dr.Ananth in his optimism for the growing tend in APIs which is expected to reach new heights  in 2012 because of the following 5 aspects:

1. The soft aspects of APIs are just as important as the technical factors: I've explored the technical stack required to be successful with open APIs before, but adoption, uptake, and long-term success depends just as much on the entire infrastructure around the API. Having a community manager that is technical enough to guide the developer audience and make them see the potential is increasingly becoming a key success factor.
2. Simplicity wins: Complexity is the enemy of APIs. While many of the turnkey services that can put businesses into the API business quickly already provide much of the right technical direction in this regard, it's about the entire end-to-end customer experience (the customer is the developer/partner in this scenario).
3. APIs often start small and internal, and then grow outward: The API model thus works for service-oriented architecture (SOA) both internally and cross-border and many API services provide features for making APIs private or semi-private now.
4. APIs as the product: The API is now the only offering that some companies provide. While user experiences will remain important for network interaction with people, they are often just not significant enough or relevant when it comes to connecting two or more businesses together.
5. Hard-won lessons from using APIs strategically are maturing into shared industry knowledge: eBay's API lead, Subbu Allamaraju, has been writing about the experiences they've accumulated making APIs scalable and efficient for the e-commerce giant's vast network of 3rd party developers and their products. It's a good example of how the API community shares knowledge.

What about the deployment platform that will provide the environmental factors for this growth? 2012 is expected to be the year when the Cloud matures, says  Holger Kisker, Principal analyst at Forrester, corroborating it with the following signs of maturity to look out for in the coming year:

1. Multicloud becomes the norm
2. The Wild West of cloud procurement is over
3. Cloud commoditization is creeping up the stack

4. Collaboration will emerge as a key business benefit for cloud computing
5. We will see the next wave of SaaS solutions in PLM, BI, and SCM

6. The cloud market will grow beyond $60 billion
7. Private clouds will go beyond virtualization

8. The first cloud brokers will emerge
9. Large enterprises will take the lead in cloud markets
10. The lines between cloud and on-premises licensing models are blurring

However a cloud adoption strategy that is flying blind can be dangerous. This is well illustrated with the GIGO principle by Jason Bloomberg, President at Zapthink, thus underlying the need for strong architecture and governance programs in 2012.

The long-standing computer science principle of “garbage in, garbage out” (GIGO) is so fundamental to IT that it predates digital computing by almost a century. And yet here we are in the twenty-first century, moving to the Cloud, and Babbage’s exasperated response is no truer or more on point. For not only is the Cloud a magnet for all sorts of garbage, it is also generating new garbage at a brisk clip. Let’s slow down a bit and consider the ramifications of moving too quickly—and haphazardly—to the Cloud.
  • Unclean data –  If your current on-premise data are unclean, say you have inconsistent customer demographic information, or obsolete product information, or any other data quality challenge, it goes without saying that moving such information to the Cloud won’t do your data, or your business, any good.
  • Spaghetti code – you may be eyeing that old custom-coded legacy app as a prime Cloud candidate. It’s too slow, it doesn’t scale well, and it’s a bear to integrate now, so won’t the Cloud automatically make it fast, scalable, and easy to integrate? Sorry to burst your bubble. If you’re focusing on an IaaS approach, what you’ll find is that spaghetti code is every bit as intractable in the Cloud as it is on-premise. What about PaaS? Chances are that old code won’t run at all. Today’s PaaS environments expect and enforce a certain level of code quality.
  • Obsolete and Cloud-unfriendly business processes  –  The business asks IT to automate a set of processes, but states unequivocally that “the processes are fine the way they are. When the business asks IT to touch a process, there is always at least an implied requirement to try to make it better: faster, more streamlined, better aligned with the underlying business need.
The garbage problem doesn’t end with garbage you might put in the Cloud. The Cloud also presents numerous opportunities to generate new kinds of garbage.
  • Zombie instances – it’s so easy and cheap now for anyone in your organization to spawn their own Cloud instances, including virtual machines, storage instances, and more. Furthermore, such instances are elastic: need more of them? The Cloud is only too happy to oblige. Your Cloud provider is only too happy to keep billing you for these Zombie instances.
  • Data with no provenance – Do you know if the data you’re working with are the latest version? Do you know they haven’t been tampered with? If not, then those data are worse than useless, since they may be incorrect, or even worse, keeping them around may violate any number of regulations.
  • Manual or poorly abstracted configurations –  If you need more, simply provision more. But then let’s say some admin somewhere in your IT shop goes into one of these instances and changes a config file in order to get an app to run on that instance. Now you have no way to update your instances without breaking your app—and if that admin didn’t tell anybody about the reconfiguration, then tracking down the problem will present a time-consuming challenge.
  • Cloud-unfriendly architecture choices – Cloud Computing lends itself to particular ways of architecting applications, and attempting to shoehorn the wrong architectural approach into the Cloud is about as effective as Cinderella’s stepsisters’ efforts with the glass slipper.

Blurring boundaries, data explosion, device proliferation and commoditization all seem to be pointing towards massive growth but will economic indicators turn out to be a dampener or will inevitable growth dampen economic fluctuation? Wishing all InfoQ readers a promising and happy new year.


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