Mar 16, 2010

Along the SOA Tipping Point

When Anne Thomas Manes (of the Burton Group) famously declared in January of 2009 that "SOA is dead", everyone rushed around to understand what she meant. Being that a year later she's still giving presentations on SOA Governance and other SOA topics, clearly she didn't mean that SOA was a failed technology. (There are plenty of IT technologies that come along with much hype but never quite translate into practical usage patterns or benefits for Enterprise IT, and therefore fade away as quickly as they arrived.)

Today when I'm talking with IT organizations the majority are doing some level of SOA. So clearly SOA has moved along the adoption curve. The innovators struggled with it but got and touted their early advantage. The early adopters picked it up and integrated it into their enterprise IT model.

We're clearly past even the early majority and a good way into the late majority. The late majority are organizations that 2 years ago weren't considering SOA, organizations that have little drive to change or business requirements that stability be a strong priority, i.e. utility companies, government IT, or back office military IT. Today all these organizations are either beginning to use SOA technologies, run actual SOA projects, or find themselves in a bottom-up situation where SOA tech has been implemented at the lower level in some projects and need to begin to rationalize and manage the results.

As an example of this, I visited a customer who's mainframe department was very enthusiastically talking about how they'd exposed over 100 web services directly from CICS [as IBM's CICS 3.1 and Enterprise COBOL allow relatively quick and easy exposure of transactions as services]. A year earlier these same people were shaking their heads over newfangled XML, and mainframe connectivity was a carefully managed process using MQ or other various gateway tools. When the mainframe guys are excited about web services and exposing modular functionality, it's a clear sign SOA has passed into the Late Majority.

However, while most IT shops are now doing some level of SOA, few of them have embraced or implemented the methodology, IT management, and IT-business interaction changes that are necessary to gain most of the benefits of SOA. SOA has succeeded as a technology set but the accompanying people changes have not penetrated. And most IT organizations are losing their SOA benefits because of this.

SOA technology without methodology is a net loser. (Not the methodology of low level integration pattern methods, rather the methodologies that bring changes to high level architecture, process modeling, IT-business interaction, and IT management methods.) Everyone (mostly) is doing it because the need to live-connect systems and the practical spread of the business processes across systems must be handled - and SOA technology offers a relatively easy way (from a pure connectivity and composition standpoint) of doing so. But (mostly) everyone is also complaining about the new problems it brings. (The problems by themselves are a good topic for a separate article.)

For SOA to succeed within the organization, the organization must adjust it's software development lifecycle (SDLC) and IT management patterns to accomodate and MAXIMIZE the new technology pattern. To date, few enterprise IT shops have done so.

IBM expresses this in their Rational Rules for Software Development, in typical engineering speak...

Rational System Engineering
The Six Principles of System Development
Rule #6

Development Organization should Reflect Product Architecture.

“Technology dictates a change in architecture, and organizations that do not adapt experience a loss of productivity and effectiveness…”

How should the organization adapt? Not having seen a simple guide to do so, I think that will be my next series of articles.

"How to Adapt your IT Enterprise to Get Positive SOA Value". This is an IT management problem, and IT architecture problem, a project management problem, and a SDLC problem.