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In many cases, the end of the year gives you time to step back and take stock of the last 12 months. This is when many of us take a hard look at what worked and what did not, complete performance reviews, and formulate plans for the coming year. For me, it is all of those things plus a time when I u...
SYS-CON.TV
Where Have All the SOA Standards Gone?
They've become a lonely lot

To mark a new standard in the SOA space, I create a Google Alert and sift through the pile of links returned to get the scope of its maturation. I'm currently tracking over 60 standards, starting with SOAP and XML (XML happened way before Google was cool).

Lately I've noticed a drop in the number of blogs, links, and articles talking about particular SOA standards. Where I once got dozens of links a week on some standards, I now get only one or two or none. So, I'm thinking that standards, although around, aren't as cool as they once were, and maybe people are a bit confused by the alphabet soup out there.
Standards have changed. At first they were good thoughts about a single way to do something, so everyone could mix and match solution patterns. They are now more marketing hype than anything else. In essence, if you're building a SOA product, make sure to start with a WS-something, and you can prove that you're a standard, and standards are always desirable. Right?

Sure. However, the number of WS-* standards out there today are downright scary. People who are just figuring out what the heck SOA is don't want to walk through a maze of standards. Moreover, vendors have done a less than stellar job of promoting standards. They typically do more of a sell job than an education job...there's a difference.
At first I figured it was just a cyclical thing, but I think it's a real trend. The press, bloggers, and even the SOA companies themselves are getting weary of the number of SOA standards that compete for our hearts and minds, and they are just not paying as much attention to them these days. Again, perhaps it's a matter of bandwidth. There's just too much out there to pay attention to, so things are falling off the truck.

Even at the seven SOA and enterprise architecture conferences I spoke at earlier this year, it was clear that interest in standards isn't driving SOA. Instead, the notions of architecture modernization and agility are really in the forefront these days. While I don't think anyone doesn't consider standards when implementing a SOA, the notion of standards doesn't seem to be driving the decisions as it once did.

To my point above, I think this is silent pushback from the years when the creation of SOA standards was more about marketing than coming together on the implementation of technology. I think users have figured that out. Considering the sheer number of standards out there that the vendors are asking you to follow and support, many find it far too self-serving and confusing. And I'm not sure I can blame them.

Don't get me wrong. Doing things in a standard way, using standards, is very important. Investment in standards could indeed lower some risks in the implementation and the maturation of an SOA. However, while rallying around a few key standards is certainly important, you simply can't figure out how 60 or more, some of them competing, will fit in your SOA. Too much, too early, too confusing.

It's time to normalize the number of standards out there. Remove the redundant standards, and remove the ones that aren't likely to have value anytime soon. They can be reintroduced later, as the need arises. Those who create standards need to be very clear about how they fit into SOA problem domains, and get out of the "We do it all" mentality. Each technology and standard is a part of a SOA, and fitting things together is the job of the architect.

About David Linthicum
Dave Linthicum is Sr. VP at Cloud Technology Partners, and an internationally known cloud computing and SOA expert. He is a sought-after consultant, speaker, and blogger. In his career, Dave has formed or enhanced many of the ideas behind modern distributed computing including EAI, B2B Application Integration, and SOA, approaches and technologies in wide use today. In addition, he is the Editor-in-Chief of SYS-CON's Virtualization Journal.

For the last 10 years, he has focused on the technology and strategies around cloud computing, including working with several cloud computing startups. His industry experience includes tenure as CTO and CEO of several successful software and cloud computing companies, and upper-level management positions in Fortune 500 companies. In addition, he was an associate professor of computer science for eight years, and continues to lecture at major technical colleges and universities, including University of Virginia and Arizona State University. He keynotes at many leading technology conferences, and has several well-read columns and blogs. Linthicum has authored 10 books, including the ground-breaking "Enterprise Application Integration" and "B2B Application Integration." You can reach him at david@bluemountainlabs.com. Or follow him on Twitter. Or view his profile on LinkedIn.

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