Friday, 25 January 2008

SOA in practice: a YAMS?

In a recent installmet of this blog I already wrote about SOA a little*, but I said that I'm going to read a book of a highly valued author to answer a couple of questions which seemed to stem from my lack of understanding of the subject. Basically my gut feeling was, that SOA (and SOAP) is just a new hype, selling old concepts in new disguise and under new acronyms. Or, in other words: why do we need yet another middleware standard (YAMS)? On the other hand I wondered: if so many highly intelligent people are buying this (i.e. the YAMS), there must be some value in it!

As not to leave my judgements to the mercy of my gut feelings I decided to read some no-nonsense SOA book. This would be close to impossible until recently, as most SOA books were full of marketing drivel and pseudo-scientific, wishy-washy definitions. But recenly a more practical SOA book was published: "SOA in Practice" by N. Josuttis**. As for now, I've read somehow 1/3 of it, which enables me to present some thoughts based based on more solid fundaments.

OK, so was my gut feeling right? Well, both yes and no! SOA is about defining basic services (which can be compared to defining the remote procedures of old), then to combine those simple services (or RPC calls) into more complete, well... services, and then building a business process flow out of those building blocks. And this using SOAP protocol and Web-Services technology. Let me say it: there's nothing new here - nihil novi sub sole! The issues coming up when designing a SOA architecture (i.e. a service-oriented one) are all familiar to me from distributed system design, and the author himself admits it readily. So I was right in my previous post? Technically, yes, with perhaps an exception of BPEL. But???

...but I must admit that SOA indeed has brought in something new, althought in a rather unexpected way! At at the first sight, SOAis only an application of sound distributed system design in corporate settings. And here it is: in corporate settings! As it seems, that wasn't so common before, the organisational and departamental issues were most important then, and now system design issues are on par with them! And that's a huge step forward. Apparently, you need a massive hype vawe to convince corporate people to use some common sense when designing systems!*** And as a Garnter analyst coined the SOA term**** and other Gartner analysts hyped it, the busines people started to hear. And this, and not the usage of SOAP protocol or Web-Services is the real breaktrough of SOA.

PS: And, of course, SOA is SOAP and WS-* in practice, just as I conjectured*, contrary to what you'd read in some high-brow SOA books.

* here I tried to answer the question why SOAP and Web-Services aren't simple (which is the first letter of the SOAP acronym!):
** book's homepage:
*** or putting it more friendly: there's a huge chasm between business and technical people!
**** SOA-definition by Gartner: and

No comments: