Saturday, July 15, 2006

Concern Oriented Architecture

As I look at various SOA efforts in large enterprises, I've begun to realize that their technical issues have little to do with the primary SOA patterns (client-intermediary-service, publish-discover-invoke) or styles (ubiquitous Web service connectors at the edge, etc.) Instead, the time consuming (and often expensive) efforts have to do with old fashion separation of concerns. Let's call this Concern Oriented Architecture or COA for short.

I'll temporarily define COA as the emerging discipline of separating the technical concerns and identifying remedies to those concerns in the form of engines, components, domain specific languages and other repeatable solutions. COA focuses on the technical domains (presentation, data, business logic, etc.), identifying where they are divided and how they are recombined.

As an example, one enterprise I recently visited with had the following initiatives listed as part of their SOA program:
- Create a virtual data layer across all enterprise data sources
- Break out all process logic into a new layer
- Verify that integration logic doesn't exist inside of applications
- (more...)

The concepts of separating presentation logic from business logic or business logic from data logic is well known. However, more and more emphasis is now being placed on the separation of process logic and integration logic from the aforementioned elements. The science of separation of concerns is continuing to evolve. This is good stuff, but is it part of an SOA program?

The SOA efforts that I see often have more to do with COA than they have to do with SOA. Obviously, this is due to the attention and funding that SOA initiatives are receiving. I'm ok with mixing the dollars but what is clear to me is that many of these organizations aren't even aware that they're doing this. They just think it's all SOA.

And of course there's a reason why brilliant enterprise architects are taking SOA dollars and spending them on COA initiatives. They realize that the ROI of SOA is multiplied when it is combined with COA. So where do I land on all of this? I guess my bottom line is that the analysts, press and other influencers need to do a better job of separating these efforts (our own little separation of concerns). SOA and COA need to be managed as two different endeavors that have points of intersection. Failures in COA shouldn't be attributed to SOA or vice-versa, nor should successes.

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