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SOA is Dead; Long Live Services

SOA-extinction-3I received a couple of wake-up alerts from some friends about the noise that Anne Thomas Manes article “SOA is Dead; Long Live Services” has made. The result of this noise has been: “Since SOA is Dead, what are we going to do next?“.

When better reading the article, though, what I think Anne actually wrote was that the need for a Service Oriented Architecture is here and well alive. What has to be revised is, probably, the hype around the all-powerful-magic-acronym, i.e. SOA.

I think the main point that Anne makes is that SOA has an interest if it is part of a real transformation, that goes beyond the tools or the IT projects or the tools themselves. This seems to be confirmed by the following quote from Anne’s post:

Business people no longer believe that SOA will deliver spectacular benefits…

…Successful SOA (i.e., application re-architecture) requires disruption to the status quo. SOA is not simply a matter of deploying new technology and building service interfaces to existing applications; it requires redesign of the application portfolio. And it requires a massive shift in the way IT operates. The small select group of organizations that has seen spectacular gains from SOA did so by treating it as an agent of transformation. In each of these success stories, SOA was just one aspect of the transformation effort. And here’s the secret to success: SOA needs to be part of something bigger. If it isn’t, then you need to ask yourself why you’ve been doing it.

The latest shiny new technology will not make things better. Incremental integration projects will not lead to significantly reduced costs and increased agility. If you want spectacular gains, then you need to make a spectacular commitment to change.

I think we experiment this with many of our customers (and, by the way, not only in the domain of SOA….). We are all caught in the spiral of delivering results before we even start working. The ROI is calculated on a quarter-based scale which prevents, so often, from engaging in transformations that could span the next one or two quarters timeframe.
Howard, vice president and service director for Burton Group, expressed last summer a similar concept:

Business executives often conclude that IT pros exaggerate predictions of reusability or underestimate project cost, Howard said. IT professionals are generally bad at presenting the business case for SOA, and need to get better at explaining the long-term benefits in cost and flexibility to CEOs, he said. This is difficult, given that businesses tend to focus on immediate rather than long-term cost savings, and point solutions rather than strategic goals…
..”We can spend a lot of time and energy making all this shared stuff that makes IT more efficient, but it doesn’t solve business problems,” …
..A good SOA project requires leadership from a C-level executive who can spur changes in a company’s culture,…We need to get better at trusting each other as human beings. None of this is really about technology,”
The problem’s not technology: people and processes are at the heart of what’s wrong with SOA as it currently exists in enterprises.

So, the problem comes back to the cultural shift that is required. Anne continues

Although the word ‘SOA’ is dead, the requirement for service-oriented architecture is stronger than ever…
…SOA is survived by its offspring: mashups, BPM, SaaS, Cloud Computing, and all other architectural approaches that depend on “services”

A couple of years ago, I wrote an article, “Two Faces of the same coin”, in which I started to develop the concept that the “Process Factor” is actually at the heart of the SOA game. What I think is that the difficulty to push a BPM-based approach resides in the lack of this cultural shift, which manifests itself in the difficulty of an organization to put itself under discussion and to reconsider the way in which internal power is distributed.  One of the evidences of this is that it is easier to push for a “messaging-based” integration instead than a “BPM-based” integration. The reason, in my opinion, is that when a “messaging-based” approach is pushed, no change in the internal power distribution is required. On the other hand, a BPM approach implies that someone clearly identifies a process and that someone is clearly appointed to “manage such process”. Even in an “undocumented process” already exists in the organization, the very fact that it is “formally defined” scrambles the power positions. And this is something that people do not accept very openly.

In this sense, I agree with what Anne wrote. The tools or the projects (especially if they are big) by themselves are not able to promote the change that is required. If SOA means flexibility, it needs to go hand-in-hand with a flexible organization, one that is willing to adapt.

Craftsmen Social Network

http://www.bonartisan.com/res/img/Logo2.jpgThis evening, on the French Radio, I heard about this site: http://www.bonartisan.com

This site implements a strong reputation system which allows individuals to find craftsmen to deal with the issues that any home-owner encounters each day.

Individuals “vote” for the craftsman who just did some reparation at home. And everybody else can choose craftsmen based on the viral marketing that is generated.

Of course, nothing new in principle….
But I liked this implementation of Social Networking to this aspect of our daily life.

The Struggle for the Sould of the Web

Very interesting article, “The Struggle for the Soul of the Web” !
The author enforces the concept of the importance of Ajax standards (and, thus, the Open Ajax Alliance) as a mean to avoid that the web becomes the territory where proprietary solutions (see Flex and SilverLight) will flourish.

In developping his argument, on which I agree, the author makes an interesting statement:
More importantly, Flash and Silverlight work by installing a proprietary plug-in to your browser, thus opting out of the entire browser infrastructure. If you are a plug-in vendor, your incentive is to keep the browser as dumb as possible.
The worse the underlying browser is at rendering rich widgets and media, the more developers and users will want your plug-in. If you are both the vendor of a browser (say IE) as well as the proponent of a plug-in (say Silverlight), then the incentives get truly twisted.

In some way, what he says is very similar to what I have said since a while: we need a new generation of Browsers which are not constraining people from developping applications delivered through the web (see here and here and here for a summary of my opinion on this topic). In that sense, Chrome may be the start of an answer (unfortunately, I say, as it comes from Google instead than from the Open Source community…).
If we want to avoid the risk that Flex and Silverlight will dominate the Web, we need to address this kind of question, which can be summarized by what I found in this other article

We’re in a transition point between the Age of Web Apps and the Age of RIAs (in the web space, that is). And if you doubt that we’re at this transition point, or if you think that RIAs include web apps, ask yourself, does AJAX really give you “all the rich you need”?

Can AJAX really, as Jef Raskin famously stated [60], treat all user input as sacred? Is AJAX really the end all and be all of a Compelling User Experience? Or do we remember that applications used to run outside of a browser?

Of course, it is provoking. But the risk is quite present.

Google strikes back

So, here it is, the long awaited “Google Browser” (called Google Chrome, but the site should go online only tomorrow) has been unveiled in an unconventional announcement in the guise of a comic book.

For the moment, I hold any new comment. I read my old post (from last August). Let’s see if this move will actually make the battleground more free ( by removing the artificial obstacles that an evolution of the Browser technology found because of the war between IE and Firefox) or it will simply be a vehicle by which Google will transform its “presents” (GMail, GCalendar, G<something else>…) into “de-facto” standards.

The initial announcements explicitly thanks what Firefox and Apple Safari did and, more important, commits Google to open-source the innovations that are certainly present in the new Browser.

I suggest people to start reading this post from John Paczkowski, especially what he says at the end:

with its view of the Web as a Web of applications and its multi-process/multi-application design, Chrome almost seems more an operating system than a browser, doesn’t it? Funny, isn’t it. Google’s long been rumored to have been developing a browser and an OS. Who would have known they’d be the same thing ?.

Without having seen and tried yet the Google Chrome browser, I tend to agree with John on the fact that Google is probably shooting towards something that is more an RIA platform than a simple browser.

I would only ask a question. Given the “open source” nature of Firefox, why Google deployed another open-source initiative instead of joining the forces around Firefox ?

Let see when we will better understand how Google Browser is done.

User as center of the Universe

I am slowly catching up with some articles I read and over which I wanted to comment. I am dealing with this one SOA needs RIA – Burton Group, because there are few sentences I liked and because it lacks, in my opinion, a proper “end”.

The Value Hierarchy of Web 2.0So, here are the quotes I liked most:

  • “We firmly believe the user experience needs to be a first level priority at the same level as SDLC, platform languages, SOA and security.”
  • “If the business depends on people and people depend on information technology, then the interface between people and information technology — the user interface — naturally has to be very good. If you have an ineffective user interface, you’re going to have a less effective organization.”
  • “…people are the platform. IT is ephemeral. It continues to change over time, but what does not change in business is that the quality of any organization depends on the quality of its workers.”
  • If developers think the goal of SOA is to provide agility in assembling loosely coupled Web services into an application that provides real-time sales data to managers and marketers, they are missing a key component in the Burton view:  “The idea is to make user experience the end goal of any IT initiative and not an afterthought.”

http://hinchcliffe.org/img/useruniversecenter.jpg

I, personally, subscribe to all the above statements. They remember me a very nice article I read a couple of years ago, from Dion Hinchcliffe, titled The Web2.0 Trinity: People, Data and Great Software. The pictures in this post are both taken from Dion’s article, and I use them consistently in my talks around Web2.0 and the evolution of Desktop technologies.

Going forward, there is another quote that my few readers may appreciate:

“We see the next step as RIAD, the rich Internet application desktop. Here you need to look at Adobe AIR, Google Gadgets, the Microsoft Widget Library, to see resident applications that provide you with a visual experience associated with RIA.”

This is even more close to what I have often written in my blog: moving beyond the browser (as we see it today) towards a mechanism where applications, delivered via the web, will be executed locally. GREAT !

What seems missing to me is the very last part of the article

In Burton’s view, the future of the UXP is in using Web widgets, portable chunks of code and gadgets, miniature objects that can be placed on a Web page to provide dynamic content.

With widgets and gadgets, real-time sales data is on the sales manager’s desktop without requiring him to do multiple click-throughs to find a table or chart, the Burton analyst said.

What I think is missing is the name to this approach, a name which already exists. It is called Mashups, isn’t it? What is needed is the possibility to define those widgets in a standard way and be able to mix and match them in different contexts: a Portal, a Mashup environment, a Rich Client, the desktop even….

What a surprise: Oracle says WebLogic is its future strategic server

Today I received on of the newsletter to which I subscribe. I read it because of an article which seemed to be very interesting “Oracle says Weblogic is its future strategic server”.
In the beginning, I liked this assertion “To many, the Oracle products seemed a mere adjunct to its data base”. Great! I like it!

The author, then, references the article Oracle re-brands BEA WebLogic as its strategic server for SOA. In this article, there is an even better quote, from Bloomberg:

“If you read between the lines, when Oracle now says ‘Oracle WebLogic Server Enterprise Edition is the application server of choice’, what they mean is that the application server they had before the BEA acquisition, to put it mildly, wasn’t the application server of choice — for just about anybody”.

🙂

BPM’s place in the upcoming decade of corporate change

I read this quote from Lombardi‘s president Phil Gilbert. I think it deserves a post:

BPM is the scalable program by which a company develops and maintains a capability for change. By “capability for change” I mean: having a corporate culture that will actively embrace change, without fear, and work to make that change good. Today, most cultures actively reject change, until forced by market conditions into it. And while companies are finding that the technologies of a BPMS ((roughly characterized as model-based design, business rules, business intelligence, business activity monitoring, and workflow) help, they don’t solve the cultural problem of people embracing change. The maturity of today’s BPMSs… may reduce the development time of a process application from, say, 90 days to 89 days. But it still takes months for a business case to get approved to charter the project. It still takes weeks to roll-out the new application. It still takes a year to get budget.

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