Monday, April 09, 2007

SOA – Same Old Architecture

Last week I blogged about a session at a legacy application modernization session I attended. This week I’d like to tell you about another presentation I saw later that same day. This second one was by Gary Barnett, Research Director at Ovum Consulting.

His approach was less one of telling us what to do, but rather raising our consciousness to stop us making the same mistakes that other people have made in the past. He is responsible for defining SOA as Same Old Architecture – which, although intended as a joke, made the point that this isn’t all new. He reminded us that Web services weren’t the first type of services that we’d come across. He suggested that we’d looked at work in terms of services before, with things like CORBA services and Tuxedo services (from BEA).

Gary also confidently predicted that 80% of SOA projects would fail. He based this prediction on the fact that they relied on ASCII and XML and that 80% was probably the number of projects that failed anyway.

He also had some important thoughts on re-use. He suggested that it wasn’t enough simply to have nice interface. He insisted that if re-use was to occur it had to have been planned since the design phase. There is no way to retro-fit re-use! He also insisted that “best practice” only worked when it really was “practised”!

Gary likened many IT projects to building a bridge. IT people know how to build metaphorical bridges, so when someone says let’s have a bridge the IT people start building. The reason so many projects fail is because it is not until they are half way across the river that anyone from IT stops to ask the questions, “just how wide is this river?” or, “do you really want the bridge here?”.

Gary said that most presentations show large coloured squares joined by thin lines and warned that the reason the lines were so thin was that people didn’t want anyone to notice them and ask questions. However, he stressed, it is often the links between applications or services that are the most difficult to modernize.

On a serious note, Gary insisted that the focus for change should be on business processes. He said that in any successful company there would be no such thing as a legacy system modernization project, there would only ever be business modernization projects.

Definitely a “make you think” session, and well worth seeing for anyone contemplating modernization (ie all of us!).

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