I attended the Gartner architecture conference last month, where 1,000 corporate architects gathered to discuss the state of SOA. The conversation was dominated by architects quizzing each other on what SOA really meant and whether any of them had really implemented it yet. That is scary for a technology that is long in the tooth from a buzz cycle perspective.
There was exactly 1 presentation I saw that presented a strong business case for the SOA architecture. That was by the CIO of National City Bank, which was recently bought by PNC and whose SOA architecture may or may not survive the acquisition.
Anne Thomas Manes also points out that while the heavyweight SOA architecture is falling out of favor, lightweight architectures based on SaaS and cloud services are on the rise. WaveMaker and other platform as a service (PaaS) vendors are delivering increased flexibility and productivity without the huge upfront investment of SOA.
Here is why SOA died and how the more flexible cloud services approach is winning:
- SOA blew the elevator pitch. Just explaining what SOA is takes longer than the average business manager's attention span. Like spinach, business sponsors are assured that SOA is "good for you." In contrast, the value of building cloud-based apps that work like Facebook and iGoogle is easy to convey, because business sponsors (or their kids) use useful web apps all the time.
- SOA was more about vendor enrichment than customer enrichment. I would argue that the SOA market was driven by the need for application server vendors to find add-on products that they could charge for once JBoss and Spring took the money out of the core app server market. In contrast, cloud services are growing organically as companies like SalesForce and WaveMaker make cloud development tools available that enable architects to build business applications based on best practices drawn from successful consumer sites like gmail and facebook.
- SOA swims against the tide of IT democratization. In retrospect, many companies that adopted SOA did so as a way for core IT to maintain control over every single computing event that occurs within an enterprise. In contrast, SaaS and cloud computing break the IT monopoly on compute cycles and deliver compelling cost and time to market benefits to the business.