The Emperor with no clothes
Is SOA the emperor in the folk tale?
technology can change the world...the World Wide Web now known simply and ubiquitously
as the Web did just that...but sometimes technology can fall flat on its face.
Not many people today will remember Push technology but I was starting my career
back in the mid 1990s when the deafening hype around Push rose to such ear-splitting
levels that Microsoft built the technology into its then upcoming browser, Internet
Explorer 4, only to drop the technology from IE5. In between those two extremes,
companies such as PointCast were hailed as the second coming of media and Push
was supposed to render newspapers and TV and every other communications medium
Today as I read and hear the din around Service Oriented Architecture (SOA),
I cant help wondering, is SOA the new Push?
Talk to any enterprise software vendor today and chances are that SOA will crop
up somewhere in the discussion. Despite that everybody seems to have a different
definition of SOA. Its like the elephant and the blind man.
A Quocirca report highlights the fact, The lack of business awareness
of SOA is stark, with over 50 percent of business respondents being completely
unaware of SOA. Even within the technical community, this lack of awareness
is running at nearly 25 percent.
Awareness levels in the APAC lag those in Europe and the USA as per this report
with about half the overall respondents in the Asia-Pacific region saying that
they had little or no knowledge of SOA. That said, although APACs
stated SOA knowledge is low, foundational readiness and the use of technologies
which lead to functional re-use is high. With regard to India, 90 percent
of respondents claimed little or no knowledge and not a single respondent claimed
to know all about SOAs and have implemented one or more already.
Quocirca believes that its just a matter of time before people understand
what SOA is and then theyll adopt it. They also believe that SOA is a
good thing as the alternative is the slippery slope of hand-crafted, non-standard
approaches. To this end, the research firm advises vendors to educate users
about SOAs benefits.
I cant argue with the fact that standards are good, because they are the
bedrock of modern computing. However, of late I have noticed that concepts have
a way of getting diluted in order to become more palatable to enterprise users.
Take the case of grid computing. What a grid was supposed to be, to begin with,
was a software layer running on every computerdesktop or serverin
one or more organisations tapping unused CPU cycles on hundreds or thousands
of machines. Whats actually being deployed in the data centre under the
moniker of grid computing is nothing more than database clusters with failover.
A rose by any other name may smell as sweet but a grid, is a grid, is a grid
and a cluster a cluster.
Similarly, while some companies are talking about SOA deployments, I have to
wonder to what extent they are embracing the idea and to what extent its
just an existing related technology being tagged with the SOA label simply because
its fashionable to do so.
Will SOA be another Push? I doubt it. Will it be diluted and just plain mislabelled
like grid computing. Unfortunately, the answer is likely to be yes.
Prashant L Rao