The Death of SOA? – Maybe later

DON’T YOU JUST LOVE the IT industry? – Never sleeping. Constantly chasing new ideas, exploring new trends, coming up with new ways to help companies solve old business problems.

What? SOA is dead?

For example, Anne Thomas Mane’s ‘obituary ‘on Jan 5: SOA is Dead; Long Live Services gave us a head start on the new year by declaring the death of SOA:

Once thought to be the savior of IT, SOA instead turned into a great failed experiment… SOA was supposed to reduce costs and increase agility on a massive scale… SOA has failed to deliver its promised benefits. After investing millions, IT systems are no better than before. In many organizations, things are worse: costs are higher, projects take longer, and systems are more fragile than ever. The people holding the purse strings have had enough. With the tight budgets of 2009, most organizations have cut funding for their SOA initiatives.

It’s time to accept reality. SOA fatigue has turned into SOA disillusionment. Business people no longer believe that SOA will deliver spectacular benefits.

What a new year’s blast! And what a firework of reactions in the blogosphere:

Fireworks on the Death of SOA

Fireworks on the Death of SOA

There’s an excellent overview at InfoQ as well. I don’t think we have seen this reaction from the IT crowd since Nicholas Carr claimed that IT doesn’t matter in  in 2003.

Take the longer view

But maybe we should take a longer term view. What seems like ‘death’ when you look too close is only a natural part of the way that innovative, complex new technology is always adopted. Although SOA technology standards are maturing well, the vision of using SOA for increased reuse, flexibility and cost reduction is still new to businesses. After a phase of enthusiasm by early adopters it’s only natural to hit a period of disillusionment, waiting for the mainstream to follow.

Technology-Adoption-Lifecycle (WikiPedia)

SOA is not dead - it has just hit a natural 'chasm' of adoption

We have known this since Geoffrey Moore’s all-time classic Crossing the Chasm: Going from the enthusiastic few to mainstream adoption is the hard part. The majority won’t adopt SOA for business flexibility until it has matured and become more easy and less risky to adopt.

So just because service-oriented architecture is in a chasm right now, it doesn’t mean it’s dead. It just needs to get ready for prime-time.

‘Architecture’ key to maturity

And as Anne Thomas Mane notes in a follow-up podcast, a key to maturity lies in doing architecture:

One of my favorite comments that came back from the blog post were the number of people who said, “Basically, we just really suck at doing architecture.”

Couldn’t agree more. Architecture is the fundamental structure that doesn’t change every other day. Architecture is the long term view.

The time for the ‘A’ in SOA has finally come.

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9 thoughts on “The Death of SOA? – Maybe later

  1. The bigger trend at work here is that during a significant economic downturn, it is likely that we will see increasingly scrutiny of IT silver bullets that have been over-positioned over the last 4-5 years. What SOA was or ‘is’ is simply a series of best practices and technologies to construct systems in this century. I would predict that the term will fade away and we will all move on to the newer pastures. The wheel is already turning and ‘cloud’ and ‘green’ are now staking a claim as panaceas du jour. I would particularly recommend keeping a careful eye on ‘cloud’. There is always a bull market in some acronym in IT !
    Ultimately, SOA was over-sold and under-built in the industry and like for all business models recently, a reality check is healthy.

  2. Piyush, thanks for your comment. I’m positive that it is the same ‘best practices’ part of SOA you mention that will need to be matured to reach mainstream adoption — whatever the label is going to be.

  3. Maybe “The Death of the Latest Siver bullet” would be a better name. People still believe the Marketing hype that the next thing will solve all your problems, that you wont’t have to manage what you do and everything will take care of itself, by itself. SOA was just the latest on a trend of these, which I think could start with COBOL (does anybody still remember that it was supposed to be readable by busines people, so that they could check that the logic was what they wanted ?).
    Great post , Carsten.

  4. You must not underestimate the ‘S’.

    I think the success of SOA also very much dependents on vendors to provide services that may be included as components in an SOA environment.

    The requirements for these components are that they must be based on loose coupling – both technologically and commercially. They must also be sufficiently granular.

    While the big conglomerates work towards being able to offer the whole package and thus retain customers in a relationship, there is an opposite development towards specialized vendors offer services that much more effectively solve specific problems.

    My company develops and implements SOA components, which improves data quality in relation to customer and product data. It may of course a question whether these components should be named “SOA” if they are some of the first loosely coupled granular components in a given environment. But as more of these components are implemented around, the better the road is paved for a Business Case for the ‘A’.

  5. @Roberto: Thanks!

    @Henrik: Services are certainly important, and I actually think both IT departments and vendors have become really good at creating them. Both in terms of not implementing everything within one, big service (was it eBay who did this?) and on the other hand also not creating every little create, read, update, delete operation you can think of as a service. The tough part is to organise the services at different levels with business services that really reflects the day-to-day operations of the business, and to manage change as the number of services grow (versions, ensuring reuse as business needs change). Strengthening the ‘A’ by defining the business services architecture of the enterprise helps creating successful SOA’s.

  6. I just blogged that I think “Big SOA is Dead; Little SOA is Thriving” at: http://tinyurl.com/soa-today2 . Ok, maybe Big SOA isn’t “dead”, but certainly struggling to convince companies to invest in BPM, BAM, ESB (Big SOA) in today’s economic climate is a tough, academic sell when they can go Little SOA with positive ROI. Organizations want rapid results– they want SOA Today and not 6-9 months down the line!

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