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Manes on SOA in 2012: “People get the architecture”

In 2009, she blogged that "SOA is dead." Today, Anne Thomas Manes says, "people are starting to actually get the architecture."

Growing use of Web and mobile apps challenges established application strategies. Long-time SOA expert Anne Thomas Manes sees mobile and Web as a possible game changer. Manes is a vice president and distinguished analyst at Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Inc. She directs research for a team in the Gartner for Technology Professionals (GTP) research group. The focus of her research is on BPM, SOA and cloud computing.

Anne Thomas ManesAnne Thomas Manes, vice president and distinguished analyst, Gartner Inc.

Manes' areas of expertise include application development and integration and data management and integration. Famed in SOA circles for her pointed "SOA-is-dead" critique of 2009, Manes saw progress with use of service-oriented architecture in 2011. spoke with her recently to get a few ideas about the more complex environments in the future that will require new patterns and approaches.

Back in 2009, you blogged that “SOA is dead.” You talked at the time of how it was being oversold. What is your opinion on the state of SOA today?

I think that people’s realization that they want a single application to support multi-channel interfaces—they want to support a browser, a mobile app, a programmatic interface—is inspiring people to really grasp what the SOA paradigm is all about. They are, in fact, now starting to design services as opposed to multi-tier applications.

The way people have been building application systems for the last fifteen years has been using this three-tier and multi-tier client server model. It has not been service-oriented even though people are using SOA technologies like Web services or ESBs. They’re still not designing systems using a truly service-oriented architectural model. They’ve been designing monolithic applications that just happen to be partitioned across multiple machines. That’s different from really having service-orientation.

We’re now reaching a point where people are saying, “I don’t want to have separate application systems—one for my mobile apps, one for my browser-based apps.” They’re saying, “I want to have one implementation of this order-entry system and I want that same implementation to be able to support my mobile clients and my regular desktop clients." That is driving people to really adopt service-orientation.

When I wrote that blog post, [the approach to SOA] was all about technology, it was all about the protocol. It wasn’t actually about the change in architectural model. Now we’ve reached the point where people are starting to actually get the architecture.

Does mobile integration go much smoother with SOA in place?

SOA is the way to support integration with a mobile device. If you want to support a mobile front-end client, you should be designing your back end as a service. That’s the only way you should be doing it. You shouldn’t be doing it any other way.

Basically you need to adopt an API-first programming model where every application you build is a headless service; it does not have an interface that’s built into the application. Instead, what you have is an API and then you build separate applications, which are the front-end interfaces, which communicate to the back-end service through this API.

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