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Tuesday, January 10, 2006


SOA-ck It To Me Baby!

Note to all software and network vendors out there: just because you wax rhapsodic about your wares being the definitive product to implement an SOA, doesn't mean that it is. Most of you took your existing product line and re-branded it. Smart marketing move for you, your shareholders, and investors. Dumb move for any IT flack who believes it. Then again, these are generally the same marks that bought ESB, EAI, and other 'holy grail' products hoping for that quick fix or silver bullet that could cure what ailed them. What they didn't realize is what ailed them then, and continues today, is bad processes and policy. A pity that we don't have a product line for that.

Since I last ranted about SOA (the entry with the magazine quip about selling it to the business) I find that the hype has now infected the business. I have sat through 4 meetings since the holidays ended where business execs and sponsors who know enough to be dangerous to IT-types belted out crescendo after cresendo on how we needed a SOA. Right now. When can we have this - tomorrow morning OK? One even went as far to have scheduled not one, but three vendor sales monkeys to give pitches! The CIO hasn't found out yet, but when she does, I really don't know how to categorize her response. Sometimes she holds her ground vs. the business, and sometimes not.

After the meeting, I had a private audience with the major business stakeholder and advised him that SOA isn't something you pick up at Best Buy and install along with the plasma TV and home theatre system. He's the very-direct type, so I anticipated his comeback by giving him a sanitized (read: de-technicalized) version of Muli Koppel's descriptions of SOA. What it is, and what it can and should be. I also put particular emphasis on the 'A' in SOA that effectively got him off the idea that he could just do the spend and make magic happen. Whew.

Business stakeholders like this - the ones that know just enough to be dangerous - are as bad for enterprise architects as poor development teams or crappy software. They have to be adroitly managed, which, at best, is a distraction from what we really should be concentrating on. At worst, then you're left with architecture-by-the-business, and that has never worked out well for anyone involved.

This is one reason I read the business press routinely. Once IT fads start hitting the mainstream press, work life can get pretty difficult for awhile.

Read Muli's stuff in any event. I like the way he presented what SOA should be and the potential architectural pitfalls involved. Solid commentary for all of us.

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