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Top-Down vs. Bottom-Up Approaches To SOA. No! There is a Third Way. February 24, 2006

Posted by poseidongroove in Bazaar, Chaos, Collaboration, e-WorkPlace, Edge Thinking, ESB, eWorkPlace, Graveyard Portal, Mashup, Mashup SOA, SOA, Social Software, Web Services.
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I was passed a link to a Gartner Report report (Sorry you need to have an account to view the report) recently by my CEO, Dan French. The Gartner article claims there is a process war being waged by a “Top-Down Brigade” who are process centric, that see SOA as a framework that underpins the notion of representing business processes in composite applications, that access functionality decomposed into a set of services. The other group, “Bottom-Up” camp are essentially the integration brigade. They see SOA as an improved way for creating interfaces between application. I think I’ll describe this category as adaptive vendors or companies that started off flogging EDI, EAI, Web Services technologies. You might also include Application Server Vendors trying to move up the food chain with so called Enterprise Service Buses.

The article also goes on to compare the two camps as the battle between the purist versus the pragmatist, the value generator versus the cost saver and the Business Evangelist vs IT implementer.

Even though the two camps have good points they still don’t get what SOA really means. Rearranging the Powerpoint Diagram is not enough. I have to take anything Gartner says with a pinch of salt. I don’t respect any company or bunch of analyst for that matter that constantly rig their reports based on which vendor pays the most tip. If they don’t rig or be easily swayed by particular vendors, how the hell does a bunch of unrelated APIs by any vendor suddenly become Enterprise Service Bus or Enterprise Content Management Hence, I call it the “Magic Quadrant Syndrome” I’m glad I’m not the only one that is suspicious of Gartner, James Governor has also bemoaned the problem caused by groups like Gartner and their “hommie” relationship with vendors. If you want any evidence of rigging, checkout this post and the threaded comments from a few years ago. Funny enough, I think the most lucrative job in IT might be Vendor Qualification and RFP/RFI Consulting. I think I’ve decided to go into this line of work!

The challenge that is facing us today is missing in this whole arguement. Where is the third way? I’ll repeat this again. Until SOA grafts on collaborative social networking services it’s going to stay in IT. Hard core processes locked into SAP, Siebel, PeopleSoft are meaningless. The word process drives me nuts. Even when they’re broken we persist with them. No wonder creativity is dying in organisations today.

SOA needs to bring that mash up revolution outside the firewall inside the enterprise and into our homes !!!. The Process Brigade need a social context. e.g. make mash ups become services in SOA, The fact that an activity is undefineable doesn’t mean it can’t be called a process. If you’re looking for good examples, you only need to look at Government Department IT Projects. Total waste of our taxes. There is no real process in government departments. All they really manage is exceptions. How can an exception become a process. You’re more likely to need to converse with a human being somehow to resolve most exceptions. The Bottom Up Brigade need to recognise that Integration for it’s sake is useless unless the integration brigade delivers the services into pervasive end user technologies forget it. A possible reference platform for this mash up is already out there checkout ServiceMix Talk about being Open Source and built from ground up to be Service Oriented. A word of caution, just like App Servers were plumbing so are platforms like ServiceMix. However, the potential exists to build something pervasive on such an open platform. My ideal reference services architecture looks like this. I think this is a starting point.

nextgen-eWorkPlace.GIF

Next Generation Services Reference Architecture

Here’s a checklist of the Third Way:-

  • Focus on Context of Pervasive Use not UDDI, RSS didn’t become useful overnight. It wasn’t until the word didn’t matter that it had a context of use.
  • End User Presentation Services will drive adoption of SOA technologies. How? By infiltrating everything they do at play, at school and at work.
  • Manage Chaos. Social Software and Mash-up needs horizontal and transparent means of control especially behind the corporate firewall. Remember, there can be Order in Chaos. SOA can be just that. If you focus on what people can’t do you’ve already lost the battle.
  • Build Trust not suspicion, Security Groups in Enterprise IT are out of control. They’re stifling innovation.
  • The word SOA Governance in SOA is being abused. So is the word compliance!
  • Aggregation Services are not as useful as they seem. If they were useful enterprise portals will not be Graveyard Portals today behind your company firewall.
  • Focus on multiple channels of interaction, e.g. email, fax, sms, etc can be service oriented as well. If I can orchestrate in Blackberry or iTunes you’re on to a winner.
  • Mash Up SOA needs an appropriate orchestration language similar to RSS, Something users can click on, browsers can orchestrate, what ever, I call it Collaborative Services Descriptive Language. (CSDL) a possible combination might be a more useful version of BPEL, I’m not comfortable with all the implementation examples I’ve seen so far because it’s not expressed in a typical grandma Josie or Uncle Harry’s context of use.
  • Uncle Harry, for example would like to create a multi step mash up service that monitors the cheapest and best locations based on specified criteria for his next cruise holiday. Think about car hire, guide, villa, golf, flights etc. These types of service need to be available for end users. Not some lonely sandal brigade UDDI Flunkey kicking tyres at an Order Process Orchestration!!!.
  • If you can’t affect the price of fish forget it. Metaphorically speaking.
  • I passionately believe in the vision above hence, I’m diligently going to pursue this vision with or without any help until I see it come to pass.
  • We need a Mash Up SOA Icon like the Universal RSS Icon, The RSS icon now easily recognisable, SOA needs to become like that!!!
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Comments»

1. James - February 27, 2006

Your comment about security groups stifling innovation is inaccurate. I can tell you that security folks in our shop champion innovative ideas and even create their own.

Security does equal closed in many places but not ours. Don’t overgeneralize…

http://duckdown.blogspot.com

2. poseidongroove - February 27, 2006

Hi James, Thanks very much for your comments. They served to stir a debate about what the role of the Security Group should be compared to what they do in most organisations today. What they’re doing in your company is fantastic. The same cannot be said for most fortune 500 corps across the world. It’s much better for Access Controls and Security Policies to be transparent and implicit rather than in your face to frustrate end users.

3. James - March 3, 2006

Attempted to converge several thoughts you had with my own in today’s blog entry.

4. poseidongroove - March 3, 2006

Hi James, Thanks, I’ll have a read today and pass comments.

5. poseidongroove - March 3, 2006

I encourage any one reading these comments to checkout Jame McGoverns excellent post on trust based architecture. It’s here
http://duckdown.blogspot.com/2006/03/agilists-who-practice-command-and.html#links

6. Michael Poulin - October 26, 2006

I am fully agree with “Focus on Context of Pervasive Use”. In my practice, I have find such context in the enterprose business model, its business services and processes (certainly, not in the IT). So, I am more lean to the top-down group, if you will. Plus, I am getting “top” restrictions from the model, that is SOA does not address “all bueautiful thing” a business analust could imagine but only those written in the enterprise business model.

As of your statement “Aggregation Services are not as useful as they seem”, I disagree. Portals got their “Graveyard” smell because they ignored or violated reasonable contexts: human specific acceptance experience. The aggregation of the services built on the top of extedable meta-models is the best way, to my opinion, of addressing your business adaptation and, respectively, its IT, to the ever changing market. I would like to refer to real life case sudy published recently: http://www.soamag.com/I2/1106-1.asp .

7. rachel - January 2, 2007

if your a big brother, your a continent of hope!


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