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SOA Vendors Focus Too Much on Integration . . .

. . .and not enough on architecture

We've all experienced the hype: "We're a SOA tool, and we're here to help!"

However, most SOA vendors out there don't understand the value of SOA, or even how to approach SOA. They focus on the tactical and not the strategic. Why? A tactical approach is easier for them to sell, and easier for them to understand. However, this approach means they are selling their customers short.

Take integration, for example. We've understood how to do integration since the early days of EAI, and, indeed, it's clearly a component of SOA. However, integration, on its own, is not architecture. Thus, just binding systems together is not architecture, thus it is not SOA.

The fact is that dozens of vendors built integration tools when integration was hot. As the world moved toward SOA, driven by the hype, vendors just relabeled their tools "SOA," even though they still address integration and not architecture. Therefore, when selling into the SOA market, they are driving integration and not architecture, focusing more on the tactical and not the strategic. There is not as much value to the business there.

While many think that just binding applications together, allowing them to share behavior and information counts as SOA, that's really not the case. SOA is the orderly management of many resources/services, and providing the ability to configure those resources into solutions, or, more important, reconfigure them as new solutions as the business requires. In essence, you create a platform for change, which is a much different notion than simple integration.

My advice to these vendors is to spend some more time understanding just what SOA is, and its value to the business. Integration is in there, but it's a small part of architecture. I should know, I wrote the book on integration. However, I did not attempt to see it as architecture. Vendors should not pass if off as that either.

But, of course, a few vendors and end users are pushing back on my advice, and here is some general guidance around the pushback.

  • SOA vendors don't need to understand architecture. They do indeed; this includes architecture in general, and "an architecture" specifically...yours for instance. When you're selling technology, it's a tad helpful if you understand its logical fit within the SOA. I'm surprised I have to keep explaining this, but there are those out there who think that tactical selling of this type of technology is the most productive approach. It's clearly not if you've seen the results. VDA, or Vendor Driven Architecture, is killing SOA. Not that the vendors are evil guys trying to trick end users, but the lack of architectural consideration, on both sides, means you will select the improper technology in many instances.
  • But, integration is important Dave. You bet it is, but it's not architecture; it's a part of architecture. Architecture is the orderly creation, placement, configuration, and management of IT assets, and integration is a core architectural pattern. Indeed, without the notion of integration, SOA would not do the job now, would it? Systems need communication at both the information (data) and behavior levels (service), including mediation of the different formats, semantics, protocol, and APIs. However, the more holistic concept is architecture, and you can't do integration without understanding the architectural context. This includes vendors and enterprise / SOA architects, working together.

I suspect that this won't be well received by the SOA vendors out there, based on the reaction from the last column in which I addressed this issue. However, it's tough love. You better figure out how to sell technology with the heart of a teacher, and not the heart of a salesman, else you'll discover that your customers won't find you helpful in the long run. The good vendors understand that, and end users really should ask the tough questions up front.

More Stories By David Linthicum

David Linthicum is the Chief Cloud Strategy Officer at Deloitte Consulting, and was just named the #1 cloud influencer via a recent major report by Apollo Research. He is a cloud computing thought leader, executive, consultant, author, and speaker. He has been a CTO five times for both public and private companies, and a CEO two times in the last 25 years.

Few individuals are true giants of cloud computing, but David's achievements, reputation, and stellar leadership has earned him a lofty position within the industry. It's not just that he is a top thought leader in the cloud computing universe, but he is often the visionary that the wider media invites to offer its readers, listeners and viewers a peek inside the technology that is reshaping businesses every day.

With more than 13 books on computing, more than 5,000 published articles, more than 500 conference presentations and numerous appearances on radio and TV programs, he has spent the last 20 years leading, showing, and teaching businesses how to use resources more productively and innovate constantly. He has expanded the vision of both startups and established corporations as to what is possible and achievable.

David is a Gigaom research analyst and writes prolifically for InfoWorld as a cloud computing blogger. He also is a contributor to “IEEE Cloud Computing,” Tech Target’s SearchCloud and SearchAWS, as well as is quoted in major business publications including Forbes, Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, and the LA Times. David has appeared on NPR several times as a computing industry commentator, and does a weekly podcast on cloud computing.

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