Saturday, November 19, 2005

The SOA Ecosystem

MomentumSI is a consulting company that specializes in SOA. We help companies with their SOA strategy, plans, vendor selections, architecture, infrastructure, education and business projects. In this role we have a birds-eye view of the SOA landscape, and one thing is clear:

"An SOA Ecosystem is quickly evolving and those inhabitants that fail to recognize the rules of the system will likely wither and die. "

In the year 2005, one significant event took place in the SOA ecosystem. Vendors that were amorphous found shape and structure. Full fledged product categories emerged: SOA Registry & Repository, SOA Management, SOA Intermediaries, SOA Governance, SOA Security, SOA Data Services, SOA Process & Workflow, SOA Testing and SOA Legacy Integration.

As the organisms explored the ecosystem, they found each other. They stared, sniffed and prodded. They identified competition, but most importantly many of them found cooperation. After first contact, emphasis was placed on removing their overlap and short-comings and they began the process of morphing themselves to become "SOA Eco-Friendly".

The SOA Ecosystem will be governed by the laws of all ecosystems. And I strongly encourage those inhabitants to know the laws:

  • Symbiosis is an interaction between two organisms living together in more or less intimate association or even the merging of two dissimilar organisms.
  • Parasitism, in which the association is disadvantageous or destructive to one of the organisms and beneficial to the other.
  • Mutualism, in which the association is advantageous to both
  • Commensalism, in which one member of the association benefits while the other is not affected.
  • Amensalism, in which the association is disadvantageous to one member while the other is not affected.
  • Predation is an interaction between organisms in which one organism, the predator, attacks and feeds upon another, the prey. (wikopedia)

I've been flying around the country talking with large and small SOA product companies about the ecosystem. As a preferred 'SOA integrator' we see the problem from the view of the customer. And as the champion of the customer, we are unable recommend products that exhibit characteristics which negatively affect the customer. Examples include:

  1. Portfolio Coupling - Single vendor solutions mandating a daisy chain of products all from the same vendor. Example: If the vendors Process Server requires the vendors ESB which requires the vendors Application Server and the vendors Database Server.
  2. Product Coupling - A single product that contains multiple capabilities, where each capability is really a standalone product. (First generation BPM products fell victim to this).
  3. Closed System - A product that fails to have integration points into the other inhabitants of the SOA ecosystem. We don't have the equivalent of a J2EE specification for the service oriented / Web service world. The burden to identify and specify integration points and mechanisms is placed on the vendors by the customers and consultancies.
  4. Inch Deep, Mile Wide - In the early days of SOA, many vendors were chasing the 'SOA platform'; they provided a little bit of registry, a little bit of orchestration, a little bit of mediation, etc. but failed to excel in any one area. The Darwinian nature of the SOA ecosystem will kill off those vendors that fail to specialize (a mile deep). IMPORTANT: This will force some vendors to abandon entire products or modules and to replace this functionality with 'open system' integration points to best-of-breed providers.

The SOA ecosystem must place the customer at the center. Modern SOA infrastructure must be capability oriented and loosely coupled via standardized policies, metadata, protocols, formats and identifiers. Vendors must recognize the architectural ecosystem, the elements, their relations and constraints. As corporations spend millions of dollars to decouple applications, they MUST place an equivalent emphasis on procuring from those vendors have eco-friendly offerings.

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