Back in March I wrote that only IBM could take an out-and-out obtuse technical concept such as service oriented architecture (SOA) and turn into a business issue. IBM had to overcome two challenges to make it happen. Most important, technically SOA refers to:
â€¢ Layering a 10-year-old service-level-agreement mechanism (â€œthe contractâ€) inherited from the utilities industry
â€¢ On top of the decades-old concepts of set-theory-based object-oriented polymorphism, encapsulation and inheritance
â€¢ In a 20-year-old client/server relationship
To some that conduct academic research into SOA, Internet and enterprise service bus (ESB) technologies are also required on the above list to make the architecture truly SOA.
Another challenge IBM faced of course is that very little of IBMâ€™s current software revenue stream is SOA-based.
But I said at the time that if IBM wants to say SOA is a business strategy, it had its advertising power during the upcoming golf-season and March-Madness basketball tournament to make it so. We saw later that month that IBM also commissioned the Object Management Group to advocate for SOA as a business issue from the user side.
Looks like it worked. This month, IBM announced the results of â€œa survey of clientsâ€ that concludes that the â€œstrategic decisions to adopt an SOA are shifting away from the realm of IT staffers to business executives.â€ That must be why so many IT guys are telling me the IBM message causes them so many problems (expletives deleted) but are also good for a stress-relieving laugh. And why TIBCOâ€™s (TIBX) Greg the Architect series had so much fun with the SOA acronym and won awards for best tech PR.
The survey was conducted for IBM by the Link Group and consisted of a â€œsampling ofâ€ attendees at the IBM Impact 2007 SOA event in May, which drew more than 4,200 technical and business leaders. This approach has a few methodological problems of course but itâ€™s interesting to see what they said. The survey revealed that 67 percent of the respondents said the key decision makers responsible for moving to an SOA strategy are business leaders, including C-level executives and business managers. For anybody that remembers a few years back, that was the same crew that brought us the dot.com bubble. Additionally, 65 percent of â€œclientsâ€ said that business leaders are also primarily responsible for selecting an IT partner to help achieve business goals in an SOA. I think the press release means to say (1.) attendees at the event (2.) that took the survey but I am not sure. And of course, 53 percent of respondents indicated that their budgets for SOA projects for 2007 increased between 10 and 20 percent compared to 2006. Thatâ€™s not exactly a wow increase but thatâ€™s what the survey said.
IT guys get either bent out of shape or a good laugh out of this stuff because basically the IT whole world is going to be based on SOA by about 2019 no matter what, ending a process that began around 2001, just as almost the whole IT world today is based on n-tier client/server computing, almost at the end of a process that began around 1989. No amount of surveys or advocacy groups is going to make it happen any faster or slower. But IBM will do its best to speed up the chemistry.
(By the way, the SOA buzzword itself is in the third year of the typical five-year life of buzzwords. With the standard buzzword half-life of one year, SOA will soon become much less visible. Greg the Architect will have to find a new buzzword to kick around.)