During a nice break for the Holidays, I got to thinking about SOA and its similarities to communism, and on my return I have been chatting to a number of SOA users and have confirmed my suspicions. SOA is just a communist plot!
Seriously though, there is a real issue here that is starting to affect companies as SOA penetration increases. Once upon a time, IT investment was funded primarily through a central IT budget with all business units having to share the burden, but over the years this became unacceptable to many who wanted a more capitalist view where funds came from the people generating the business and were justified based on returns. So nowadays IT budgets typically fall into two pieces; a central component for the IT ‘infrastructure’ that everyone shares, and project-based funding attached to specific business initiatives.
Then along comes SOA. In its simplest terms, SOA is about two things – packaging functionality in business services, and encouraging the sharing of these services across different business needs. But who owns these services / is responsible for funding them? Are they infrastructure? Well, not really because they are business-driven. So are they funded by a project? But in that case the project is now having to fund something being done ‘for the good of the whole’.
This problem can be seen more clearly if we look forward. Imagine a company where SOA has become a way of life, and all applications are now made up of shared SOA services linked in different ways. Does that mean everything is now infrastructure and should be centrally funded? Then that takes us back to the centralized funding days, losing the link between business need/return and targeted investment. In reality, this introduces the principles of communism, where everyone owns everything, and the problem for companies is that this model stifles business performance and progress. Perhaps one way around the problem is for monitoring and management software to keep pace with the changes, so a clear picture can be built of which business operations drive which services. At least this would provide some more granular level of investment/return linkage.
However, my personal view is the problem will sort itself out – once the initial funding hurdle of SOA has been overcome, project funding to achieve a particular business end will be happy to build the required functionality in ‘SOA mode’ because it will be just as cheap as not doing this, and this will have the convenient by-product of helping other projects. In other words, the kick-back against SOA by projects today is based on being forced to increase investment ‘for the good of others’. If SOA works out right, the future should see projects tomorrow investing less but also seeing others benefit, a much more palatable situation.