Reports of SOA death are greatly exaggerated

Hats off to Dana Gardner who finally put a coda on the discussion about the so-called death of SOA with a podcast that included among others Anne Thomas Manes, vice president and research director at Burton Group, who triggered the flame war a the beginning of the year. It gave Manes a chance to clarify that the purpose of her provocative blog was to stir up the age-old conversation that technologies won’t sell the business. “If you are an IT group and you are trying to get funding for some projects — and you go forward with a proposal that says we need to do SOA, because SOA is good, it’s going to get shot down.”

As we’d note, Anne was simply updating the classic argument that the business wants solutions that address business problems and deliver business value. Since the popping of the dot com bubble, few enterprises have had any appetite for technology projects justified on the basis of technology – and before that, appetite for technology was simply a defensive matter of trying to keep your best junior Java developers from jumping ship to an Internet start-up. But given the fact that technology buzzwords still have sex appeal to those who still command some budget, those who were promoting SOA needed to get their eyes back on the ball.

The hand-wringing over SOA, which architecturally was supposed to be The Next Big Thing, was hardly new. Gardner and fellow analyst/blogger Joe McKendrick and the rest of us were throwing around this topic back last spring, witness Gardner’s observation that “SOA in of itself is not enough to overcome the many obstacles on the path to ongoing and effective business and cultural transformation.”

On the recent podcast, consultant and Blue Mountain Labs founder Dave Linthicum concurred with Manes that “the majority of people out there who are wrestling around with architecture are ill-equipped to solve some of the issues.” Ergo, they focus on the plumbing, losing sight of the business problem they were supposed to address, or the additional architectural problems they were creating. Forrester analyst Jim Kobielus added that our new infatuation with the cloud may also solve more problems than it addresses. “We all now focus on services. Now, we’re moving into the world of cloud computing and you know what? A nebulous environment has gotten even more nebulous,” he said, referring to new, more complex governance and service level accountability issues that teams may not realize they are wading into. McKendrick and analyst JP Morgenthal, observed that there is a kind of men vs. boys parting of the ways occurring: the companies that are doing well with their SOA implementations are doing so not because of SOA, but because they already have sound IT/business alignment and architectural discipline.

Catch a summary of the discussion here, a full transcript here, or listen to the podcast here.