State of SOA pondered again

Panelists at software conference consider what has transpired for services concept.

Debate over the status of SOA continues to rage, with panelists at a Silicon Valley software conference Monday evening pondering the topic.

Representatives from software designer iDesign, author and consultant Christian Gross, and author and teacher David Platt covered the fate of SOA in a session entitled, "Is SOA Dead?" at the SD West conference in Santa Clara, Calif.

The panel was not the first to consider whether SOA was dead, with analyst Anne Thomas Manes, vice president of Burton Group, in January [even offering an obituary] of sorts that panned the term "SOA" while stressing the ongoing need for services. SOA has traditionally meant the coupling of application services from multiple sources, with Web services playing a key role.

Panelist Juval Lowy, principal of iDesign, contended that SOA is dead because it was never alive. "My point is that SOA is an artificial, engineered concept," he said. The concept was driven by major vendors in the industry looking to equate their products with whatever SOA is, he said.

CIO-level people "invented the buzzword" that is SOA, said panelist Michele Bustamante, architect with iDesign. SOA was intended to put a label on processes that would control costs. It also has involved integration.

Panelist David Platt, author of "Why Software Sucks ... and What You Can Do About It," said that to application programmers, SOA meant Web services. "And like any other buzzword, once it came out, it got thrown at everything in sight to see what it would stick to and what it would not," said Platt, who is head of Rolling Thunder Computing, which offers IT training.

SOA also has been viewed as a magic bullet but did not work out as such, he said. "How many silver bullets have you seen in your programming history? Five? Six? Seven? And have any of them worked, ever?" Platt asked.

The term SOA became diluted, Bustamante said. "People aren't talking about it anymore because it's no longer a powerful buzzword," to sell products, she said. Platt said SOA was a powerful buzzword because nobody quite knew what it meant.

"I think we still care about the essence of, without the buzzword, what SOA was supposed to mean," Bustamante said. It was supposed to apply to compartmentalizing business logic, making it accessible and maintainable and offering interoperability, she said.

Panelists also pondered the growing complexity of SOAP and its attendant WS-* standards. "I think everybody's moving to REST," Bustamante said.

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