Who’s Afraid of VDA?

A puzzling new meme regarding Vendor Driven Architecture (VDA) has popped up in around SOA. The thought behind this seems to run something like this: companies should buy ‘best of breed’ (BoB) solutions for their SOA and not buy a particular vendors suite. Vendor suites are further demonized by calling them “comfort technologies”.

Wow. Didn’t we hear all of this ‘best of breed’ versus software suite drum banging about ten years or so ago in IT? Then the play wasn’t SOA but EAI. So, yes, by all means go buy whatever you think is ‘best of breed’, then spend years trying to integrate it all into something that might meet your shifting/evolving business requirements over the integration life cycle. I can’t think of too many companies (if any) that would advocate the BoB approach again.

Another dimension to this decision that seems to get lost is that there is value to the Enterprise by constraining technology choices — this is part of what Enterprise Architecture does (or should do). If every project is free to pick their own ‘best of breed’ the corporation will quickly wind up with an unmanageable mess of disjointed products (and integrations, etc). Many of us in large corporations have seen this one play out as well. Enterprise standards are a necessary ‘evil’.

Further, it is entirely possible, valid and valuable to compare business requirements to the vendors/products that the Enterprise has already decided on as standards. It would be rare that there wasn’t a 70% or better ‘fit’ with any contemporary enterprise application portfolio. My point is, the decision to choose a vendor product doesn’t have to be ‘just because’; it can be because an existing vendor can solve the problem without having to introduce another technology/vendor. Stated differently, vendor selection doesn’t by necessity have to start outside of the existing enterprise standards.

Let’s say that the analysis is performed and finds that a BoB vendor has a few more bells and whistles than one of the approved vendors. In my mind, the next step is not to jump to the BoB vendor, but to perform a further analysis around when (realistically) the enterprise would be ready to take advantage of the differentiating feature(s). If the answer is 2-3 years, then there is a good chance that the “comfort vendor” technology will have caught up to the niche vendor. This is one of the tricky things around requirements analysis that often gets overlooked — much of the functionality will not be consumed out of the box, but only after there has been a significant amount of analysis, design and implementation. The industry and products keep evolving, just as the requirements do. Here it is valuable to have a vendor who has an articulated technology roadmap that will guide the follow-on analysis.

So, to me, it seems VDA is a symptom, It is a bad thing only if you blindly follow whatever your vendor is telling you. But at that point, you certainly aren’t doing architecture nor are you doing due diligence on your requirements gathering and analysis. That would appear to be the bigger problem and is much more likely to have far more damaging consequences that ‘catching’ VDA.

Technorati Tags:
, , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *