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David Linthicum continued the conversation around design-time governance in cloud computing over at his InfoWorld blog. In it, he quoted my previous post, even though he chose to continue to use the design-time moniker. At least he quoted the paragraph where I state that I don’t like that term. He went on to state that I was “arguing for the notion of policy design,” which was certainly part of what I had to say, but definitely not the whole message. Finally, Dave made this statement:
The core issue that I have is with the real value of the technology, which just does not seem to be there. The fact is, you don’t need design-time service governance technology to define and define service policies.
Let’s first discuss the policy design comment. Dave is correct that I’m an advocate for policy-based service interactions. A service contract should be a collection of policies, most if not all of which will be focused on run-time interactions and can be enforced by run-time infrastructure. Taking a step backward, though, policy design is really a misnomer. I don’t think anyone really “designs” policies, they define them. Furthermore, the bulk of the definition that is required is probably just tweaking of the parameters in a template.
Now, moving to Dave’s second comment, he made it very clear that he was talking about governance technology, not the actual governance processes. Speaking from a technology perspective, I’ll agree that for policy management, which includes policy definition, all of the work is done through the management console of the run-time enforcement infrastructure. There are challenges with separation of concerns, since many tools are designed with a single administration team in mind (e.g. can your security people adjust security policies across services while your operations staff adjust resources consumption while your development team handles versioning, all without having the ability to step on each other’s toes or do things they’re not allowed to do?). Despite this, however, the tooling is very adequate for the vast majority (certainly better than 80-90% in my opinion) of enterprise use cases.
The final comment from me on this subject, however, gets back to my original post. Your SOA governance effort involves more than policy management and run-time interactions. Outside of run-time, the governance efforts has the closest ties to portfolio management efforts. How are you making your decisions on what to build and what to buy, whether provided as SaaS or in house? Certainly there is still a play for technology that support these efforts. The challenge, however, is that processes that support portfolio management activities vary widely from organization, so beyond a repository with a 80% complete schema for the service domain, there’s a lot of risk in trying to create tools to support it and be successful. How many companies actually practice systemic portfolio management versus “fire-drill” portfolio management, where a “portfolio” is produced on a once-a-year (or some other interval) basis in response to some event, and then ignored for the rest of the time, only to be rebuilt when the next drill occurs. Until these processes are more systemic, governance tools are going to continue to be add-ons to other more mature suites. SOA technologies tried to tie things to the run-time world. EA tools, on the other hand, are certainly moving beyond EA, and into the world of “ERP for IT” for lack of a better term. These tools won’t take over all corporate IT departments in the next 5 years, but I do think we’ll see increased utilization as IT continues its trend toward being a strategic advisor and manager of IT assets, and away from being the “sole provider.”