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Cloud Computing & SOA: Getting the Links Straight Between Them

How SOA benefits cloud computing

Want to know what gets my blood pressure up? It's when there's both a huge shift in thinking around how we should do computing, namely cloud computing, and at the same time, there's a bunch of information out there that causes confusion. As cloud computing hype spikes to a frenzy, so does the number of less-than-intelligent things that I hear about it and its relationship to SOA.

We've got a herd mentality in IT. We're always chasing the next paradigm shift, which seems to come along every five years, claiming that whatever the last paradigm shift was had "failed" and that's why we're looking at something new. However, these hype-driven trends are often complementary, and so the real power is in figuring out how known approaches fit with what's new, and not look to replace, but how to build on the foundation. The best case for that scenario has been how SOA benefits cloud computing, but few understand how and why.

The confusion continues. Stacey Higginbotham, a commentator for GigaOm, remarked that an HP presentation on cloud computing was "depressingly similar to the idea of service-oriented architecture." She noted that "HP offered clouds as merely a means to deliver IT as a service inside the enterprise." However, she was disappointed because "...most of HP's detailed talk of clouds in the first webinar was depressingly similar to the idea of service-oriented architecture."

I'm not trying to pick on Stacey. I see and hear a lot of this kind of stuff out there, and confused people make for more confused people. I suspect that many of the people who sell cloud computing are selling its replacement aspect and not focusing on how to leverage cloud computing into an architectural context. This is dangerous thinking that will quickly get many a naive enterprise into trouble.

The trouble here is that those in IT have a tendency not to understand new concepts in the context of the old, such as how cloud computing is leveraging most of the concepts and patterns around SOA. That's not "depressingly similar."

Let's get this straight: SOA is an architectural pattern, simply put the ability to create an architecture around the notion of many services that are bound together to create and re-create business solutions. Cloud computing is a set of enabling technologies as a potential target platform or technological approach for that architecture.

Thus, to say they're similar is the functional equivalent of saying that an approach to creating automobiles is "depressingly similar" to electric cars. It doesn't make sense. One is the way of doing something, while the other is a potential outcome. SOA doesn't go away. It's not replaced. It's architecture. Cloud computing is a potential outcome of that architecture, thus cloud computing needs architecture, and vice versa.

The core issue, I think, is that we like to oversimplify things when things aren't simple. While we attempted to solve SOA by tossing technology at the problem, we quickly found that SOA was something you do, not something you buy. The same risks are here with cloud computing. Those who toss things outside of the firewall onto the platforms of the clouds without architectural context, such as leveraging SOA, will find themselves in trouble.

We have too many people attempting to lead thought or provide commentary in the cloud space who have no context, and so have a tendency to oversimplify how this technology is leveraged or how it works in enterprise architecture and SOA. And I'm going to call them out when I see it happen.

More Stories By David Linthicum

David Linthicum is the Chief Cloud Strategy Officer at Deloitte Consulting, and was just named the #1 cloud influencer via a recent major report by Apollo Research. He is a cloud computing thought leader, executive, consultant, author, and speaker. He has been a CTO five times for both public and private companies, and a CEO two times in the last 25 years.

Few individuals are true giants of cloud computing, but David's achievements, reputation, and stellar leadership has earned him a lofty position within the industry. It's not just that he is a top thought leader in the cloud computing universe, but he is often the visionary that the wider media invites to offer its readers, listeners and viewers a peek inside the technology that is reshaping businesses every day.

With more than 13 books on computing, more than 5,000 published articles, more than 500 conference presentations and numerous appearances on radio and TV programs, he has spent the last 20 years leading, showing, and teaching businesses how to use resources more productively and innovate constantly. He has expanded the vision of both startups and established corporations as to what is possible and achievable.

David is a Gigaom research analyst and writes prolifically for InfoWorld as a cloud computing blogger. He also is a contributor to “IEEE Cloud Computing,” Tech Target’s SearchCloud and SearchAWS, as well as is quoted in major business publications including Forbes, Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, and the LA Times. David has appeared on NPR several times as a computing industry commentator, and does a weekly podcast on cloud computing.

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