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Are You SOA New School, or Old?

Why you need to know the origins of your technology

It has come to my attention that there are really two kinds of SOA technology vendors out there, old school and new school - each offering very different approaches to solving the SOA problem. I'm not going to mention any particular vendors, but you guys can guess who they are.

Keep in mind, what's important here is that not any particular approach or technology is correct, but that the approaches and technologies you employ match up with your requirements and business expectations. However, it's also important to understand exactly the type of technology you're going to leverage, including its core - that's the point I'm attempting to make here.

Old-School SOA Vendors
Old-school SOA vendors are those with "legacy" integration or application development solutions that "SOA-tized" their stuff, basically adding Web services interfaces, orchestration, governance, etc. I've been here before - you're working with an existing product and existing customers, and suddenly a new wave comes along. You have to keep up, thus you add another layer onto your existing product to make it a bit more acceptable to the market, and also maintain backward compatibility with your existing customer base. It's not easy.

Thus, these guys layer on top of the existing stuff or creating another layer of abstraction, hiding the core with new interfaces, management layers, and perhaps a repository. Some of the common characteristics of old-school SOA are:

  • The need for their underlying and legacy core technology in order for their SOA technology to function. This is a sure sign that there are dependencies on the older coretech. This is not bad unto itself, but could cause performance issues as you work down to the core from the abstraction and back again. You'll find that some of the existing vendors do this, but some do not, so make sure to try before you buy.
  • The product cannot deal with coupling, only cohesion. This means that the SOA solution relies on an asynchronous messing system for internal communications - in other words information-oriented integration - and can't deal with behavior or service-oriented integration. Thus, reusing service through this type of infrastructure can be problematic, if not impossible.
  • The need for backward compatibility with an existing base of users. Again, this is not a bad thing necessarily, but if your SOA product is trying to maintain a portion of itself as a proprietary subsystem, that could limit development going forward.
The upside to old school is that you're in a new market space with a minimal amount of redevelopment. That is the upside for the vendor, however. Moreover, these are typically well-known and established players.

The downside is that you could have an archaic product at the core, and it may not handle the new ways in which we're aligning systems today, at the service level and not at the information level alone.

New-School SOA Vendors
New-school SOA vendors are those with new products. Typically they are start-ups with fewer than 100 or so customers. They don't need to SOA-tize their products because they are typically built from the ground up with SOA in mind, doing both service- and information-based integration. However, there are advantages to starting with a new canvas, and some drawbacks as well.

The upside to new school is that you're getting a product that's built specifically for the application to an SOA. Moreover, these new guys typically solve a particular portion of the problem, such providing just the registry, development environment, or federated identity. They don't offer "all-in-one SOA solutions," which is good. To date, I've not seen a product that can do it all. The downside is that you're dealing with a new company that is going to change a lot in the next few years, in good ways and bad ways.

Conclusion
So, which school should graduate from? At the end of the day, it's really a matter of your problem domain and the problems you're looking to solve, that's for certain. However, I can say that the new school products have more applicability for the SOA space since they are specifically designed for that purpose. The old school products just seem like quick reinventions, many of which are limited by the existing core product. When building an SOA, you don't want limitations - it's hard enough as is.

More Stories By David Linthicum

Dave Linthicum is Sr. VP at Cloud Technology Partners, and an internationally known cloud computing and SOA expert. He is a sought-after consultant, speaker, and blogger. In his career, Dave has formed or enhanced many of the ideas behind modern distributed computing including EAI, B2B Application Integration, and SOA, approaches and technologies in wide use today. In addition, he is the Editor-in-Chief of SYS-CON's Virtualization Journal.

For the last 10 years, he has focused on the technology and strategies around cloud computing, including working with several cloud computing startups. His industry experience includes tenure as CTO and CEO of several successful software and cloud computing companies, and upper-level management positions in Fortune 500 companies. In addition, he was an associate professor of computer science for eight years, and continues to lecture at major technical colleges and universities, including University of Virginia and Arizona State University. He keynotes at many leading technology conferences, and has several well-read columns and blogs. Linthicum has authored 10 books, including the ground-breaking "Enterprise Application Integration" and "B2B Application Integration." You can reach him at [email protected] Or follow him on Twitter. Or view his profile on LinkedIn.

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Most Recent Comments
SYS-CON Brazil News Desk 05/05/06 11:19:09 AM EDT

It has come to my attention that there are really two kinds of SOA technology vendors out there, old school and new school - each offering very different approaches to solving the SOA problem. I'm not going to mention any particular vendors, but you guys can guess who they are.

SYS-CON India News Desk 05/05/06 10:46:51 AM EDT

It has come to my attention that there are really two kinds of SOA technology vendors out there, old school and new school - each offering very different approaches to solving the SOA problem. I'm not going to mention any particular vendors, but you guys can guess who they are.

Mark Griffin 01/30/06 03:17:02 PM EST

David,
Good article but I have a comment with one statement - "Thus, reusing service through this type of infrastructure can be problematic, if not impossible". I think building a reliable, reusable Services infrastructure requires the use of messaging as opposed to making it more difficult. Making this happen without messaging requires a lot more effort on the architect's part especially given the state and support of the various messaging standards out there.

I think you are correct about the retrofit of existing platforms (we're talking about traditional EAI vendors right?). It has had a certain amount of pain associated with it but generally not in the messaging area. Plus companies have a lot invested in these systems. I think making them work as opposed to starting from scratch is the more realistic view.

markg
http://darth.homelinux.net

SYS-CON Belgium News Desk 01/30/06 11:06:53 AM EST

It has come to my attention that there are really two kinds of SOA technology vendors out there, old school and new school - each offering very different approaches to solving the SOA problem. I'm not going to mention any particular vendors, but you guys can guess who they are.

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