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The SOA-RIA intersection

Recently we polled site members on their RIA and composite application plans. What we discovered is there’s a massive overlap between the SOA and RIA audiences.

In all we received 395 responses and 44% said rich Internet applications were part of their enterprise IT/business strategy. Another 30% reported that RIA would become part of that strategy in 2008. 85% reported that RIA was an important to extremely important piece of their SOA strategy. Only 2% said RIA wasn’t important at all to their SOA plans.
Most strikingly, 74% reported they expect the importance of RIA to their IT/business goals to increase this year. In other words, for 3/4 of our survey respondents, RIA is a big deal that will be getting bigger. Rich Web front ends were the most popular type of app being built or planned (79%), with Ajax (81%) being the most popular technology employed to build those apps. Yet 55% also reported they are building/planning database composite applications and 35% reported they have entered or will enter the fairly new space of enterprise mashups. That’s a fairly massive amount for a category that would have been in the low single digits two years ago.

Oddly, mobile apps only drew a 29% response rate. That could be read a few different ways. Our respondents were mostly senior folks in the app dev or IT department. It’s possible rich mobile development is being done outside their auspices. Yet the fact that the more senior people in the app dev arena aren’t connected to it would also mean that rich mobile development hasn’t become a major enterprise initiative. The other way to read it is that mobile devices have yet to become a major business initiative. In fact, mashups using unified communications might be the path that mobile devices take rather than strict mobile app development.

The top two benefits sought by those building out rich/composite apps were improving the user experience for customer facing apps/services (65%) and providing expected levels of business functionality to end users (61%). Lack of internal knowledge/resources ranked as the number one obstacle to adopting Web 2.0 technologies (21%). It also ranked high as a secondary issue (35%). Yet a whole host of issues fell in the 27-38% range for secondary issues: techinical readiness/back-end support, selecting the right technologies, security, data/application integration issues and application performance issues.

Finally, IT management ranked as the top evangelist (28%), technical decision maker (34%) and financial decision maker (40%) when it comes to Web 2.0 technologies. Yet an interesting person ranked second in evangelism (27%) and technical decision making (26%) – the architect. Maybe this has something to do with polling the membership of an SOA site, but it speaks to how architecture is becoming a primary concern in all applications work these days.

It should be remembered that for years analysts have been saying that a primary benefit of pursuing SOA is to get ready for whatever comes next, to be able to deploy new technologies on top of the existing IT infrastructure in a way that makes sense. It would seem from our survey that those predictions are now taking shape in reality. RIA is happening parallel to and in conjunction with SOA and it looks like many users will have interesting stories to tell later in the year.

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