SOA Confusion — Practitioners versus Pundits

With the typical firm grasp of the obvious, the following quote appears at the top of a posting entitled “When all else fails, try SOA best practices“:

“We’re seeing a lot of people out there struggling with SOA, trying to do SOA,” said Ronald Schmelzer, senior analyst with ZapThink. “They are worrying about building services and running services. They are having to ask themselves questions. ‘Why am I doing this? What services do I really need to be building?’ They need methodology.”

Well and it’s no wonder given the various forums that SOA has on the Internet. The problem is, everyone has their own methodology with about 80% of it being identical to every other, 10% of it being somewhat different and 10% being absolutely useless. That is not much room for differentiation. In my reading of these different approaches, the difference appears to whether the methodology was created by an SOA practitioner or merely a self proclaimed pundit.

For a prime example of the chest thumping echo chamber of ego and useless opinion, take a look at the yahoo SOA ‘discussion’ group[warning, Yahoo login required to view content]. Here you have a handful of preening blovators who go on at great length about esoteric, impractical aspects of webservices and (sometimes) SOA. Endless rants about REST vs SOA, business services vs enterprise services, their out pet definitions of technology terms, on and on. When an unsuspecting non-blovator posts, there is a veritable feeding frenzy to see who can dissect the question and turn it into a rambling thread of gibberish and self promotion. Thus, the majority of the non-blovator questions go unanswered leaving the poster to think, ‘well if all of these smart people can’t come to a reasonable conclusion, then it must be really hard’. Run away from the pundit mosh pit!

This is not to say that there aren’t the occasional quality posts that provide some real value; there are. The problem is that there is so much noise that it is hard to find these nuggets. Just as there are some true practitioners you can go to to get quality information on a highly consistent basis. In my opinion, one of those (rare) individuals is David Linthicum. He consistently delivers the ‘here is what works and here is what doesn’t’ insights that I really appreciate. I just hope that this continues to be the case now that he is part of the ZapThink group.

Right, then there is Zapthink. You really want their website to be the good resource for SOA that it desperately wants to be but visitors are immediately put off by the newbie web design motif that makes it look like a pr0n site, circa 1998. Arrive at the site and you are greeted with: A horizontal scrolling banner, and vertical scrolling banner, an obnoxious flashing banner top center, a font that is about 3 sizes too small to be legible and no real information on the front page, only self promotional come ons. It is a disaster. When you get to the ‘content’ (most times behind a login) it is typically an excerpt that you then need to go to yet another web site to read the actual article. Tedious and unnecessary, especially since many of the linked article merely mention Ron Schmelzer name and some quip that he contributed.

So where does that leave those in search of quality information on SOA? Here are a few of my favorites:

The previously mentioned Real World SOA blog by David Linthicum
SearchWebServices Occasionally has some good postings in and amongst the vendor diatribesn
Steve Jones’ Service Architecture – SOA is worth a look, as wel
SOA and EDA Though I wish Jack would ditch the annoying snapshot preview popup
SOA Consortium Insights is updated infrequently, but the posting are typically info dense
The SOA Magazine tends to have good, in depth postings
Todd Biske’s Outside the Box has thoughtful posts on not just SOA but BPM and Enterprise Architecture in general can be a bit hit or miss, but you can usually pan a few nuggets away from the vendor annoucements and whitepaper-cum-advertising literature that you find there

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