Last week I was at US National Architect Forum (http://www.architectforum.net,Vail Cascade resort, Colorado) facilitating roundtable discussions and architect panels. As expected SOA was a topic intensely discussed. The participating architects wanted to understand the other’s perspective of what SOA is and how to reach that utopian state. Even after several customer panel discussions and roundtables, I believe same confusion existed.
Majority of the enterprise architects (EA) believe that they had come across a panacea in SOA that can cure all the ills of the enterprise. However, the solution architects (SA) who need to move at the speed of the business believe that SOA is a wonderful concept but will fail because of its ignorance of the organizational dynamics and political control boundaries. Also, SAs think that the EAs are twice or thrice removed from the business and are creating high expectations in a theoretical vacuum.
It looks like EA and SA are trying to pull the same wagon at different speeds in different directions. Unless enterprise architects win the support of solution architects, SOA will be another failed experiment. So, in order for enterprise architects to win over solution architects, I feel that they need to do the following:
In addition to convincing SAs, convincing the business is another important factor in winning with the SOA strategy. Business often sees SOA as IT trying to clean up its own mess. So, make business understand why investment in reusable services is necessary. Explain them why a service oriented solution takes longer and costs more initially and how this strategy benefits them with the future business agility.
As many architects at the NAF were questioning (What is SOA? Or what is a Service?), don’t try to understand what SOA is but just get it done!
SOA is no different than the traditional information systems we had put in place with conscientious architectures. SOA with its standardized contract formats like WS-* only makes life a lot easier. Because of the infinite possibilities SOA presents to us, all the dormant integration problems of the enterprise (inter and intra) hitherto deemed unsolvable now are on our lap. Instead of getting distracted by all these problems, pick a chunk at a time and solve while winning the hearts and minds of the business!