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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
Why Enterprise Architects Continue to Fall Short with SOA
. . . and Enterprise Architecture

If you read this column and listen to my podcasts, you know that I call SOA what SOA is…an architectural pattern. In many instances, SOA is a vital component of healthy enterprise architecture. Indeed, I’ve provided some keynote talks around this very topic at about half-a-dozen enterprise architecture conferences to date. However, generally speaking, the enterprise architects out there still don’t “get” SOA, and they continue to do a poor-to-average job of creating enterprise architectures that…well…support their enterprise.

By the way, those of you who will respond to this column and tell me that you’re doing well with your architecture, that’s fine. Unfortunately, dozens of you can be an exception to my observations, and it still doesn’t mean I’m wrong here. This is a systemic problem; however, there are clearly islands of success out there.

What’s core to the issue is that many enterprise architects don’t have the political will, or the authority, to solve many of the core problems. It’s very difficult to make changes in enterprises today. There is a certain amount of job risk that comes with those types of actions, risks that many enterprise architects are unwilling, or unable, to take.

Here are the issues, the way I see it:

EAs don’t understand SOA. The largest issue is that the majority of enterprise architects (EAs) do not understand what SOA is and what SOA is not. Either they just don’t bother, or they want the definition of SOA to fit some preconceived and incorrect notion in their minds. Are you listening…you guys who use the terms “SOA” and “ESB” interchangeably?

EAs don’t understand their own issues. The other problem is that many enterprise architects can’t tell you the cost of inefficiencies within their existing IT infrastructure and enterprise architecture, any value they would get from reuse, and any metrics around the value of agility within the enterprise. In some instances there is no central record/artifacts around data semantics, APIs, processes, workflow, etc. If you don’t have a clear understanding of what the current issues are, you cannot know how best to correct them over time.

EAs fear change. If things are bad, then change is typically good. Unfortunately, change also means risk, and risk is something people typically don’t like. The fact is that people are rewarded for maintaining more than they are rewarded for improving. This answers the question about why so many of the enterprise architectures out there are now layers upon layers of tactical one-off solutions designed to “keep things going a few more years.” Somebody needs to have the political will to figure out a long-term solution using sound enterprise architectural approaches, including SOA.

Those enterprises that have clear architectural issues typically don’t understand how to approach fixing the problems. Indeed, it’s often overwhelming to most architects, and thus – like anything else that’s overwhelming – it’s easier to ignore the core issues and go about your daily routine.

If you have a problem, you know the symptoms. It takes two months or more to change any major business process. You have no holistic understanding of your data, your services, or your business processes. You have redundant and dysfunctional data, without any consistent integration strategy, nor common interfaces into the systems. You get the idea.

Unfortunately, I’m not sure that guys like me shining a light on these shortcomings will have much impact. I think it’s going to take some well-published disasters that almost kill a company or two before the powers that be understand the real problem here. Hopefully, a few of you will be more proactive.

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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Reader Feedback: Page 1 of 1

I whole-heartedly agree, and will offer something that I didn't see a lot of, in your article: suggestions for how to start going about correcting the problem :-)

First, EAs should consider looking at EA frameworks (i.e. TOGAF, Zachman, etc.) and EA-level tools (Volere, impact/gap/cost/benefits analysis, view/viewpoint definitions, etc.), which present a more comprehensive view of the EA process. If they did they'd realize that:

1) SOA is only a sliver of the entire EA process, and

2) Adopting SOA needs to be an enterprise principle, which is demonstratibly aligned with corporate principles. Without that, you'll never really get the solid buy-in you'll need, because the argument for doing SOA can't even be tied back to known company goals/strategies.

Second, you've got to take the keys away from the people who insist on driving, when they're "drunk" (or "high") on SOA. In that state, they're incapable of realizing that it's not a miracle drug for whatever ails the corporation. SOA can be like crack cocaine, to some people :-) Play it safe and combine SOA w/virtualization, complex-event processing, business processes, etc.

And lastly, just play the SOA hand you were dealt, and then only bet money you and the company can truly afford to lose. When it's gone, get up from the table, and walk away. What does that mean? It means, only invest in something to the degree that you can actually get a proven measureable profit, from doing so. Annual profits and Wall St. numbers, lie do not :-)

I think you have soooo hit the nail on the head. As the leader of the EA organization in a major federal agency, I found that moving this kind of change is very difficult, particularly if you care about continuing your career. It is very easy to fall back on point solutions that this project and that project want, and not get to the real core issues that are holding the organization back (often around data).


Your Feedback
IT Yoda wrote: I whole-heartedly agree, and will offer something that I didn't see a lot of, in your article: suggestions for how to start going about correcting the problem :-) First, EAs should consider looking at EA frameworks (i.e. TOGAF, Zachman, etc.) and EA-level tools (Volere, impact/gap/cost/benefits analysis, view/viewpoint definitions, etc.), which present a more comprehensive view of the EA process. If they did they'd realize that: 1) SOA is only a sliver of the entire EA process, and 2) Adopting SOA needs to be an enterprise principle, which is demonstratibly aligned with corporate principles. Without that, you'll never really get the solid buy-in you'll need, because the argument for doing SOA can't even be tied back to known company goals/strategies. Second, you've got to take the keys away from the people who insist on driving, when they're "drunk" (or "high") on SOA. In tha...
Daniel Horsey wrote: I think you have soooo hit the nail on the head. As the leader of the EA organization in a major federal agency, I found that moving this kind of change is very difficult, particularly if you care about continuing your career. It is very easy to fall back on point solutions that this project and that project want, and not get to the real core issues that are holding the organization back (often around data).
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