Tuesday, September 02, 2008

What or How? Is that really a SOA Discussion?

I've read this post from Todd Biske several times now. Todd makes some very good points about the technology debates going on with SOA discussions. The essence of the point is focus on what your are building as opposed to how you are building it. This supports the notion that SOA is about an architectural style rather than a specific platform or technology.

Although I agree with Todd's point about IT sitting at the table with the business to help decide what is being built, I'm not really sure that's a SOA discussion. SOA is an architectural style. Sitting down with the business to guide direction and what is being built is an age old issue. We use to call it IT/Business Alignment. As I have said before if you have been building solutions without good IT/Business communication going on then you have probably been outsourced. I don't think moving to a SOA style of architecture changes the need for IT to be at the table with the business helping guide direction.

I think the analogy of a surgeon is a good way to think about this. Your doctor consults with you about your health issues. Together you come up with a plan on how to deal with them. That plan may involve surgery at some point. At this point the "how" becomes very important. For a given surgery there may be multiple techniques that have various recovery times and impacts to a patient's lifestyle. Your surgeon's knowledge of the various techniques and their ability to perform them have a large impact on the success of the operation.

To me SOA is no different in that the diagnosis and the implementation of the procedure both have to have focus. One without the other is an incomplete solution. I definitely see Todd's point about sitting at the table with the business but you also need to make sure you have some good cooks in the kitchen when it's time to cook. Otherwise here comes that spaghetti again.

I think another important point about the "how" is that it's more than one piece. The "how" to me is not the technology selection you have chosen but rather "how" you implement that service on that technology selection. That "how" cannot be emphasized enough in my opinion. You can get the "what" completely correct but botch the "how" and be left with a mess. You have then failed to deliver on the promise of services.

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