The Boeing and Airbus of SOA

This past weekend’s Wall Street Journal included a small article about the growing financial troubles of EADS, the parent of Airbus.
“The board of European Aeronautic Defense & Space Co. had hoped to agree as early as Friday to build the plane… The A350 XWB is a revised version of Airbus’s bid to rival the success of Boeing Co’s hot selling 787 Dreamliner…”
“EADS faces frowing financial troubles following the expensive delays in its A380 superjumbo plane…”
I think we can draw some interesting parallels between the Boeing and Airbus situation and the distributed vs. centralized SOA infrastructure debate.
In James Surowiecki’s financial column last July in the New Yorker, he points out that Boeing basically made the right bet and with the 787 “was in the right place at the right time.”
External circumstances may well be more responsible for the recent turnabout between Airbus and Boeing in which Boeing now has the upper hand than politics or management. And I am willing to concede that the management and political environments of SOA infrastructure vendors are, on balance, not a determining factor.
However it is worth thinking a bit about the kind of a bet they took, and why.
Boeing basically bet on a different view of the future of air travel. The industry is changing, and the traditional airlines are failing while the low cost airlines are raking it in.
Boeing sells a lot of 737s to low cost airlines such as Southwest, Jet Blue, and Ryan Air. These companies are thriving based on their point to point routes, while the traditional airlines are hampered by their more expensive hub and spoke based systems.
Airbus was basically betting that the hub and spoke trend would continue. They built a plane that could carry more passengers to and from the hubs. But the larger plane also required additional costs to airport facilities that the Boeing plane does not.
How does this relate to SOA? The message is that the industry does not need more of the same old bloated and big expensive software stacks. Customers need better software specifically designed for the changes represented by the SOA trend.
They need low cost alternatives that allow them to start small, with incremental adoption, using point to point communication solutions that avoid expensive hubs.


2 responses to “The Boeing and Airbus of SOA

  1. Hi Eric,
    This is a very interesting analogy Eric. Great post.
    I guess the message is that in a gobal environment where things are always changing, it is better to rely on a sleaker, lightweight, and more ditributed model.

  2. Great example of focusing on the actual needs of the customers and understanding the direction of the market. Very clever analogy Eric … I enjoyed reading. This is exactly why my team at Unisys has taken a very holistic and modular view of SOA to address those real concerns. For instance, with Lufthansa, we built an open flight inventory control module to replace the inventory management portion of client’s reservation systems. Why did we do this? Well, for one, as airlines work to more effectively book open seats, their legacy systems are being bombarded more so than ever with seat availability requests. But, perhaps more significantly, it is one step in building wrappers around legacy code, exposing services, and moving toward a real SOA.
    Likewise, we are building a full-blown system (modernizing a pure legacy environment) at Nippon Airways. This system is a next-generation airline marketing, sales, and service solution suite designed to replace conventional airline reservations, inventory, and departure control systems.
    I see this trend of movement toward SOA, particularly in a modular, evolutionary approach taking off (slight pun intended) with the airline industry. Thanks again Eric for the discussion.
    Anthony Gold, Unisys Corporation

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