Thursday, August 31, 2006

Supply Side and Demand Side SOA

I come from a manufacturing background, hence I tend to think in terms of products, inventory (the supply) and demand. I do the same thing with SOA.

Most of the companies that I've consulted to start with a 'supply side SOA strategy'. That is, they create a strategy to create a supply of services. As everyone in the manufacturing world knows, creating supply without demand is a really bad thing. Inventory that is not used is considered bad for a few reasons, the primary ones being:
1. You prematurely spent your money
2. As inventory ages, new demand-side requirements will be generated causing the current inventory to become outdated

Most manufacturing companies have moved to some variation of just-in-time production. They wait for customer demand before they build the products. You'd think that this would work for SOA but in many companies it isn't. The reason is simple. These companies do not have a demand-side generator (the sales and marketing engines). Demand-side SOA is a discipline that doesn't exist in many corporations.

Demand-side SOA requires a change in philosophy and process. For starters, you have to begin thinking about all of your services as products or SKU's. Products must be managed in a product portfolio. Products must be marketed to potential 'buyers'. Demand side application builders should have well defined processes to shop for SKU's with cross-selling capabilities. We need to kill the 'service librarian' and replace it with the 'service shopping assistant'. Obviously, we have to quit thinking in terms of 'registries'; 'catalogs' are better - but 'shopping carts' are probably even closer to target.

Demand-side SOA is currently at an infancy. Our ISV vendor community has largely failed us to date but it is only a matter of time before they catch up. In the mean time, it is the responsibility of the I.T. organization to begin changing philosophies and processes to think in terms of supply and demand economics.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Forking Web 2.0

Screw Web 2.0.

Seriously. I have no need for Web 2.0 as it is being defined.

A few months ago I attended the MS Web 2.0/SOA think & posture event where a bunch of smart people overloaded the term Web 2.0 to meet their own needs, myself included. I almost forgot about the event until I caught a post by Gregor Hohpe (who impresses the hell out of me). Gregor attended yet another 'what the hell is Web 2.0' event and blogged about some attributes and tenets:

I'm convinced that Gregor is a freakin genius, so I really doubt if he missed the conclusion. In fact, the thinking was very similar to the Spark conference so I'm not surprised.

What just occurred to me is Web 2.0, as the world defines it, bores the living hell out of me. It's simple - I don't work for a consumer company like Amazon, Google or Yahoo - and as I look across my clients most of them don't need Web 2.0 functionality (as people are defining it).

What do I need? How do I want to overload the term? Easy. I am a SOA dude. I need a bad ass client framework for my services. I was hoping that the Web 2.0 guys were going to create a new client model - but they aren't. They're creating a social computing model - good for them, but it doesn't meet my needs. I need... a Collaborative Composite Client Platform.

What's are the characteristics of a CCCP?
1. Obviously, it's client-side, asynchronous, message/service oriented and highly interactive.
2. It's designed for the Web but merges the application and document paradigm successfully (like
3. The componentized UI is self describing and viewable by a user (think 'view source' meets 'portlets') .
4. The services called by the clients can be identified and reused. If a user doesn't want the UI they should be able to identify the services the client calls and use them instead.
5. Collaboration is a core tenet, not a feature .
6. Services are pre-compiled and available as-is however, client compositions can be changed at runtime and the new configuration can be permanently saved (typical with modern portals).

If the Web 2.0 guys create their manifesto and it's a bunch of e-tail crap where the customer is king - I'm out. My interests are in creating a new programming model for the client that serves as a foundation for any domain. It's time to fork Web 2.0.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Decoupling the Client and Service Platforms

The realization seems to be hitting the masses that Service Oriented Architecture isn't just about the Services, rather it is about the consumption of those services. Dare I say, it is about the clients (and the services).

The SOA programs that I've seen stall out typically were because they failed to identify the composite applications that would consume the services. It sounds rather obvious - but it isn't about building or buying services. Value is created when business people use clients that leverage the services. I guess that's one of the reasons why I always try to call this paradigm 'Client-Service Computing', rather than SOA.

Recently I reviewed a few enterprise SOA reference architectures and noticed an unpleasant pattern. Architects were forgetting to put the 'client' on the architecture. I know - sounds silly. Really smart architects get so caught up in identifying the patterns, domains, interactions, practices and standards associated with services that they forget about the clients!

So - we have clients and services... and we decoupled them. I'll say it again - we decoupled them! This takes me to my next point. For legacy reasons architects are continuing to insist that the client platforms be tightly aligned to the service platforms (.Net on both, etc.) This is non-sense.

Many of the last generation client platforms were not optimized for service oriented computing. By this I mean that they don't easily accommodate the Web Service standards nor do they embrace 'contract first design' and in general - many of them just plain stink. The reason we use them is because analysts like Gartner told us to go with a single platform. It's time to decouple the client and the service platforms. The client platforms should be optimized around UI capabilities including collaboration and human-computer-interactions. This might mean using a strong Web 2.0 platform. My bottom line is that there is no need to continue building UI's using the same ole platforms. It's time to optimize for this computing paradigm.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

5 Years and 1 Hour

Yesterday, I cranked out a fairly extensive document dealing with SOA governance. Not to pat my own back too much but it kind of rocked. I delivered it to the client and they expressed their happiness with the work. I mentioned to the client that I wrote it over lunch. They gave me a look of disbelief - as if I was lying.

It occurred to me that it really took me 5 years and 1 hour. It took 5 years of research and thinking about SOA and one hour to write it down.

Sometimes I cringe when I hear enterprise customers say that they're going to do their SOA effort internally and not learn lessons from people who've already put in the 5 years.

Am I trying to promote SOA consulting services? I guess I am. You know why?
1. I make my living by delivering SOA consulting services
2. SOA is the most extensive offering I've ever seen in I.T. and quite frankly, I think people who try to go it alone - or by reading a Gartner report are going to fail.

It's that simple.

Monday, August 21, 2006

SOA Posers - Move Over

I've noticed that the chasm is growing between the people who talk about SOA and the people who do SOA.

This is great news. For years it was just annoying evangelists. Now, the discussion has moved to the real questions. The troops are involved and they need to know how to do it. In many organizations this shift has already happened.

The media and sellers needs to catch up. The array of conferences and WebEx's on "Funding SOA" or "What is SOA?" need to come to an end. POSERS GET OUT OF THE WAY. It is time for the architects, designers, programmers and testers to actually DO IT.