Say what? Focus on “what” rather than “how”

I just read Joe McKendrick’s post called “Debate rages over SOA’s ‘cloudy’ future.” It continues on the seemingly endless debate these days on WS-* vs. REST, WOA vs. SOA, etc. For the most part, I’ve avoided this discussion but I finally decided to actually make a statement on it. While there is plenty of value in these discussions, I’d argue that their focus has been on how IT implements solutions. What they don’t focus on is what solutions IT builds, which is where I believe there is much more value to be gained. Are there opportunities for incremental gains in using WS-*/REST/etc.? Absolutely. But is there a change in the solutions that we are delivering other than the implementation under the covers? Make the wrong decisions on what gets built (or bought), and it won’t matter what technology was used to build it, because that will be far more of a limiting factor than whether it was built using Java, C#, Python, WS-*, REST, or anything else. It’s disappointing that so much of the discussion on SOA has focused on the “how” rather than on “what.” Unfortunately, as a corporate IT practitioner, we’re frequently only asked to solve the “how,” and not involved with the “what,” so I’m not at all surprised that this is the state we find ourselves in. We need to continue to work to understand the business that our solutions support in order to be able to challenge the “what” and demonstrate the business value that can be provided by redefining “what,” eventually leading to sitting at the table as part of the team that decides “what.”

3 Responses to “Say what? Focus on “what” rather than “how””

  • Rob Eamon:

    Exactly right. Most of the WOA proponents tend to focus on the available tools–completely ignoring the “A” in WOA.

    Some still equate SOA with specific technologies, like SOAP, ESBs, etc. We still have been unsuccessful in moving people away from this incorrect perception. I point it out over and over but the message is seldom heard/received so many cling to the inaccurate notion that SOA is SOAP and message busses. Grr.

  • I think there are two sides to this. Viewing the world as services and deciding what those services are(the what) the key component to SOA no doubt about that. However the technical side of SOA(and there is one) is far from mature.

    You could argue and I have certainly seen it in practice that some of the SOA failures have been not in failure to select services correctly but failure to implement them correctly.

    Obviously SOA is agnostic to the underlying technology and your focus in the SOA world should not be on the technology. However ignoring how you implement your services and the retooling most developers need to do this can lead to some big disappointment as well.

    It’s not necessarily technology specific but what you choose to achieve your reuse, agility, composability etc and how you lay that out can have a big impact on the success of your SOA. You really have to do both right ( the what and the how) in order to achieve your SOA benefits.

  • […] debate presented on these pages (here and here), and feels that if anything, the discussion is a distraction from the real work that needs to be done. Is the SOA-WOA debate too much background noise? IT practitioners need to concentrate on […]

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