June 25, 2012, 7:12 AM — A few years back, SOA (service-oriented architecture) was all the rage. Vendors rushed to remarket everything as SOA, and SOA-washing was the new greenwashing. But in today's rush to the cloud, have we abandoned SOA? If so, we're in trouble.
I was late to SOA. When Bobby Woolf sent me an early copy of "Enterprise Integration Patterns," I didn't get it. I had been working on performance and scalability rather than integration. A few years later, after JBoss was sold to Red Hat, we had one final blowout company party. I was standing amid some of the brightest minds in the industry when someone asked, "What the heck is SOA?" No one could answer except the marketing guy.
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SOA isn't a product. It isn't even an architecture. It is a strategy or maybe even a philosophy. The short version is, as Amazon's Jeff Bezos famously summed up, "everything is a Web service." SOA services are also discoverable and ideally event-producing or event-driven. Below is a common example of a typical SOA meta-architecture.
The economics of integrationSince SOA is more of strategy than a product or an architecture, it has a fundamental motivation problem. In our industry, strategies are sold in the form of consulting and training. Investors don't like consulting and training because you can't really build a multi-billion-dollar company on consulting and training. The industry likes licenses and subscriptions.
IT departments also love to buy integration products, but hate to use them for integration. Remember when portals were the hot ticket? Every corporate IT department created its own portal; no one created portlets. Internet companies did the same -- every company built its own portal. Now every department will buy its own SOA server.