Friday, October 30, 2009

SOA Architect workshops

This week I followed the SOA Architect workshops and had hoped to see Thomas Erl in action. Unfortunately he had become ill -get well soon- and asked a Toufic Boubez and Paul Buhler to help out. Boy do these dudes rock! Both are highly skilled people with a lot of field knowledge. Unbelievable how these two guys can convey the subject - and with a lot of humor as well. I almost believe that they themselves had much fun doing it ;). Both have many examples from the field and do not hesitate to put the group to work and challenge them. Not afraid to ask for more than one solution, depending on point of view or subtle case changes which have lots of impact on the proposed solution options. Also shared lots of extra insights. The participants had a lot of dialog and in-between sessions, a lot of knowledge was shared. Also expanded my network a bit.

Great class I can recommend to people who want to get trained properly. Speed is high and I feel that one needs at least some prior knowledge and perhaps some years experience in integration and even better in SOA. And at last workshops/trainings which are vendor agnostic! The kind of workshops out there which are called training are typically vendor marketing channels. But not this one! Really, if you wish good vendor agnostic training, try the SOA training provided by SOA Systems ( I am planning the followup training for SOA Security and can't wait for the SOA Governance modules. It's a pity it's a bit hard to get this kind of quality training in Europe but they are working on availability for these workshops!

Also I made some new friends in Gemany, Oslo and Belgium. Hope to get another coffee when we meet again. We found this great place for coffee and bagels near the WTC called mockamore. Anytime pals, anytime! The place was a bit small but for a coffee to go it was great. Friendly staff and good coffee; fresh bagels, good products. Coffee's a bit expensive though.

Friday, October 23, 2009

2nd International SOA Symposium October 22nd/23rd 2009

This week I attended the 2nd international SOA Symposium in Rotterdam, NL.
Great to meet all the great minds of the current SOA era. I was happy to personally meet Paul Brown, Tufic Boubez, David Chappell and Thomas Erl. Finally got a chance to get my SOA Books signed (thanks Thomas!).

Anyway, I wanted to share with you what I saw there.

1. A lot of vendors... Personally, I think SOA should be vendor agnostic and all these vendors were as always trying to push why their product is better than the competition's based on extra features which lock you in into their tooling :(
2. Remarkably low floor presence of all these good people for whom I had attended the event for. They were all in the SOA manifesto sessions. I was there but could not meet! If you wish to take a look btw, you can check out the SOA Manifesto here. I agree with their statements and one of my next posts will elaborate on why I think they are right. Unfortunately them being in these sessions did not allow me to speak with them more than a few words...
3. I think the quality/level of some speakers was well below expectations (yes it could still be me) but if a session is not interesting I will walk out to get more elsewhere. I walked out on a number of occasions. Hopefully others did not have similar experiences.
4. Great presentations by Paul Brown "The Critical Role of Architects in an Enterprise SOA", Thomas Erl/Anne Thomas Manes "Exorcising the Evil SOA: A Necessary Step Towards Next Generation SOA" (you should have seen the "Evil SOA!") and Steve Pope "SOA Governance and Management Practices".
5. Great architecture in the World Trade Center Rotterdam! I'm sure the photographers got some great shots.

Great espresso bar!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

SOA is not a disease!

So... I finally gave in... Soooo many times I have thought about what I could do with my experience and ideas related to clarifying what SOA is all about. Yes I hear you! I'm nr. 10 billion who writes about SOA and probably there will be another five before the next hype comes along! And you are probably right. Just bear with me and give it a chance - and btw thank you for being one of the five people reading this blog!

So here I am, in the field since 1995 and many years experience with SOA and distributed computing in general. After graduating I started working at a large consumer electronics firm, writing prototype software (user interfaces) for televisions and set-top boxes. This was mainly of the demo nature and the only true production-ready SW I ever wrote for that company was embedded software implementation for a set-top box. This was challenging as the platform had many constraints and performance was all that mattered. These restrictions got to me and I moved to another company. I still remember when I wrote my first service broker based component based distributed system for my new employer, a large telco in the Netherlands. I've tried MS's COM/DCOM/MSMQ/MTS server based software and was amazed with the openness and flexibility this gave me. Nowadays we would know the concepts applied back then as service broker, asynchronous queuing, distributed transactions, durable subscribers etcetera. Little did I know :). Later I continued on the J(2)EE platform which was much more stable and required hardly any workarounds. I integrated a lot of systems and even dipped into the web-pool shortly while (co)writing two web portals intended to merge information management, workflow and sales tooling for this telco. We used BEA and JBOSS (now oracle and redhat) tooling. Around 2002 some people were talking about SOA and I looked into it - it looked promising. At the time I considered SOA a been-there-done-that exercise. Well, guess what - we made some mistakes - expensive ones. Very expensive ones! Not just technology and architecture, but mainly governance and organisational mistakes.

Anyway, this brings me to the title of this blog. Where I'm from, The Netherlands, the acronym means something entirely different - in English you will all know the term STD and that's what SOA means in Dutch: Sexually Transmittable Disease. Today, many companies have turned their back towards SOA and indeed treat it as a disease. Because it did not deliver what it promised, or because they purchased a tool and figured it would change their luck and would reduce their investment. Well, WAKE UP! Nothing is less true. SOA will not bring return on investment, and will probably make matters worse if nothing else changes in the enterprise. Great, you think, I just invested tons into this new tool and hardware, and now you tell me it was a mistake. You tell me I will spend much more. Whoa... hold your horses. Indeed I am convinced that if nothing else changes, purchasing a "tool with a promise" will cost you. So, what else needs to change? In order to figure that out, we have to explore a number of concepts and patterns which will most likely change your mindset about SOA. And when it does, we are ready to talk about how the tools can help you leverage your architecture to bring reduced IT burden and consequently, a better return on investment.

I won't be writing often as I simply don't have the time for it - yes I too tend to think I have a life. I will purposely pick topics to trigger discussion clarifying how SOA may or may not work, hoping that it may do the same for you.

From this article I hope to convey one message: it's not something you can buy, it something that requires hard work and a lot of planning! Implementing a SOA is not something you do in a week-end. It is something that takes years. Any benefit you expect, don't expect it anytime soon. From my personal experience I think it would take 3-5 years before the SOA starts bringing structural benefits. If you think you need show return on investment results during this or in the next fiscal year, maybe SOA is just not your thing! That's what it is about: tactical versus strategic. And SOA definitely qualifies for the strategic approach.

See you next time...