Saturday, September 17, 2005

Should Stupid People Do SOA?

In not so many words, I found a piece that asks the question, "Should stupid people do SOA?":

"True story: A financial-services firm built an application to track risk management on a Web-services platform. What had once been one application was broken down into 15 XML-based services, some of which were outsourced because they encompassed noncritical information. It was a sound plan; by outsourcing some of the component services, the firm saved both time and money on the project. But there was one thing the developers hadn't considered, and that quickly became apparent when the application was deployed.

It was chaos. Instead of one application logging data, there were 15 services that needed to be managed--and all were sending messages to the system-management application. That app would in turn notify the IT department of the errors it was logging. Not only did the risk-management application crash, but it took the system-management application down with it, both of them overwhelmed by the essentially 15-fold amount of data generated. The company eventually had to redesign the way messages were handled to ensure that the system-management application only logged the most critical ones.

And that, in a nutshell, is the conundrum of combining a service-oriented architecture, in which loosely coupled business processes are transformed into discrete interfaces that can be easily plugged and unplugged as business conditions require, with the outsourcing of those business processes to third-party providers. The advantage is the disadvantage. You can break business processes down to their most granular, logical elements; focus your development efforts on where you can provide the most differentiation; and let someone else handle the overflow or the low-profit transactions. But you open yourself up to a management challenge the likes of which you've never seen."

Here's my view: Stupid people shouldn't do SOA (on-shore or off-shore). Stupid people shouldn't do object oriented. Stupid people shouldn't do ERP. Stupid people shouldn't have white-collared jobs... but they do.

In many ways nothing has changed. SOA doesn't keep stupid people from making smart mistakes or smart people from making stupid mistakes. It sure doesn't hide mistakes. In some ways it makes the mistakes more visible - which, if properly managed is good. I'd love to see the 'service oriented sequence diagrams' and the 'integration testing plan' for the aforementioned system. Any semi-competent architect should have seen the cross-cutting concerns and performed integration testing - SOA or otherwise.

SOA is an architecture that specifically leverages a continuum of talents: 'brains', 'average' and 'grunts'. Use the 'brains' to create the common services and practices and make the 'grunts' use them. Leverage the 'average' dudes to verify that the 'grunts' are doing things in alignment with the 'brains'. Done. Stupid people (grunts or not) always slow things down.

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