Daily Archives: March 18, 2006

SOA Approach to IT

Another great thing about attending the InfoWorld SOA Executive Forum was getting a chance to meet people, such as Phil Windley, whose blog I really like (check out his excellent summaries of the Forum keynotes), and Todd Biske, who also has a very interesting blog. It was great to put a face to a name, as they say.
Todd and I and David Chappell also spent a few minutes talking about our recent interactions on the Service Orientated Architecture discussion group. In general this has been a good experience, although as with any public forum you get the occasional strange or off topic post. But overall I’d recommend checking out the archives and joining if you haven’t already.
One thing that continues to strike me from the discussions is how many people still seem not to understand services, SOA, and Web services very well. Vendor suspicion runs very high. I am often left wondering whether the industry has really done the job we set out to do here.
It therefore bears repeating that SOA is an approach, not a technology. The customer side presenters at the SOA Forum emphasized this. Some of them also said that they only use 20-40% of the software capability they own. Another consistent theme is that current IT environments are too brittle and hard to change to support business needs.
Everyone seems to agree that SOA has the potential for resolving these problems, if applied correctly. But perhaps the fact that customers need to adopt a new approach to solve these problems means that vendors also need to adopt a new approach.
I think it was someone on the SOA discussion list who said that IT vendors today are like going to an automobile dealer and having the dealer tell you what kind of car you want to buy. In the past it has been much more about the technology than the approach, meaning the vendors who developed the technology had to be the experts on how to apply it.
Now with customers deciding on the approach independently of technology, the roles are reversing. Customers are starting to tell vendors what kind of technology they need by creating their SOA based designs independently of their technology decisions.
This strikes me as a very good trend, and appropriate for where we are in the evolution of the software industry, helping to lead us to a place of resolution for the current frustrations with enterprise software.