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SOA, Progress and the R-word

Two interconnected debates are raging in the blogsphere over how service-oriented architecture (SOA) may be running into resistence in 2008.

One debate covered this week in a SearchSOA article is about whether SOA is reaching it’s goal of linking IT and business people, or is just becoming an IT-only initiative that is stalling out in most companies.

The other related debate concerns whether the R-word a.k.a “the current economic downturn” will hurt SOA adoption.

These questions were raised when Gordon Van Huizen, vice president of SOA at Progress Software Corp., called this week discussing how his company is putting all its SOA products under the umbrella of the Progress SOA Portfolio.

The portfolio offers a broader SOA marketing message by covering all the Progress products for:

·         Enterprise service bus (ESB)

·         Business process management (BPM)

·         Complex Event Processing (CEP)

·         Registry/repository

·         SOA management

·         Data interoperability

·         Mainframe integration

From a sales and marketing perspective this seems like a good approach. But Van Huizen was asked about the larger marketing challenge posed by current economic conditions.

Does Progress have a strategy for coping with hard times?

“We have this built-in strategy at Progress that is relatively unique,” Van Huizen said.

He noted that his company’s Open Edge development platform is sold through an ISV channel that has been in place for a long time. The 1,500 ISVs target “very specific, narrowly defined segments of vertical industries.”

By throwing the net so wide, the ISVs reach customers in a variety of industries, not all of which are hurting in this economy, he explained.

“So if there’s a slow down in financial services we don’t feel it so much in that product line,” Van Huizen said. This is also true of the SOA products, he added.

“Our orientation to the market was initally around financial services and telco, perhaps because of the messaging orientation of Sonic MQ,” he said. “But with the SOA management product, with Actional, there’s been opportunities to branch well beyond that.”

The Progress SOA Management product is penetrating into healthcare and higher education, two areas generally considered recession proof, he noted.

“As one part of the market goes down others remain somewhat boyant,” Van Huizen said. “So if there’s an offsetting strategy I believe we have one. Of course, if everything tanks, we’re all in trouble for awhile, and that’s just the way it goes.”

As for the other related debate about how to keep SOA from stalling out even in companies that have the budget to do it, Van Huizen suggested two strategies.

The first one is to reach across from IT to business people by explaining SOA not in terms of technology with acronyms, but through business case studies that show the dollars and sense success of the approach.

The second is to begin SOA projects at a tactical level, even as simple as application integration, sometimes called EAI 2.0. This allows IT to show the business managers and executives the advantages of SOA without asking them to shell out big bucks for a massive implementation.

These two approaches are also echoed in a recent blog by analyst Joe McKendrick, who quotes fellow analyst Tony Baer’s view that this will be a year of lower expectations for SOA.

“Recessions tend to discourage the kind of long-term thinking that grand enterprise architectural exercises are supposed to support,” Baer said. “In that sense, SOA has been caught up in the middle – roughly six years after the current incarnation of the concept emerged with Web services, there remains considerable debate as to whether it makes sense to take a project or architectural approach.”

However, McKendrick makes the interesting point: “It’s worth noting that the case for SOA, in tandem with Web services, was forged during the worst IT spending slump in a generation – the 2000-2002 time period. Companies and IT professionals were attracted to the SOA/Web services concepts because they offered the attractive advantage of building or exposing existing applications at minimal cost and disruption.”

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