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SOA and networking, the conversation that never seems to happen

One of our sister sites,, just published a story on how networking pros need to collaborate with people on the applications more often these days because service-oriented apps and Web 2.0 technologies put a greater and/or different strains on the network.

The article comes out of an Interop 2008 session and quotes Shankar Ramaswamy, vice president of product management at Sonoa Systems:

“Often, we start talking to customers in the application side of the house,” Ramaswamy said. “And we say: ‘Hey, we need the infrastructure guys to buy into this. Our customers are starting to recognize that this discussion has to happen outside of our technology. We are pushing it along because we are providing something that makes these people collaborate. We urge you to talk to your application people more.’ “

The piece goes on to quote others and talk about why networking pros and app dev pros need to be locked in the same room until they figure out how to work with one another. Mind you, this isn’t revelatory news. I remember writing essentially the same story after talking to users attending the 2002 NetWorld+Interop conference. John Gage declared “the network is the computer” more than 25 years ago. All SOA and Web 2.0 technologies are doing is taking the network up on the offer.

What baffles this observer of the IT industry is why we’re still having this discussion. The connection between an Internet-enabled network that can go anywhere and applications that try to combine disparate systems and data is so blatantly obvious that you’d need to disable all five of your senses to miss it. CIOs should have demanded app dev and networking get on the same page a decade ago. Instead the conversation seemingly revolves around domain pros wondering why folks in the other domain must afflict them so?

There’s no real big secret to that one. It’s because what you do and what they do are intimately tied together. SOA stands for service-oriented architecture, not service-oriented applications. A big part of that architecture is the nervous system that enables the loosely coupled, discoverable services to operate.

We spend a lot of bandwidth these days talking about technology and ROI (or the lack thereof). I’ll hazard a guess, absent any broad-based data to support it, that ROI is as much tied to getting disparate groups like app dev and networking to work with each other as it is to anything else. It gets to the simplistic beauty of Occam’s razor. Why can’t your IT department operate more efficiently? Because it doesn’t. If it did, then you’d likely see faster and bigger ROIs. Obviously levels of collaboration and dysfunction vary company to company, division to division, but far too many people aren’t having this conversation and you know who you are.

When all else fails, you might want to try working with the people with whom you work.

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