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With 2014's wealth of emerging and maturing technologies, like the Internet of Things and mobile, SOA technologies could have become one of the cool kids -- and if not the head cheerleader, then certainly one supporting the pyramid. But as 2014 demonstrated, sound architectural principles don't necessarily equal popularity, or even visibility, as SOA took on the role of the person cool kids would get homework help from -- but wouldn't be seen with in public.
According to Carl Lehmann, research manager, hybrid IT at 451 Research, SOA "has a lot of reasons to become cool." He said SOA should get credit for four things dominating IT. First, Lehmann said, APIs -- based on SOA principles and architecture -- are growing exponentially, but SOA doesn't get credit for that. Continuous integration and rapid deployment means that services structures are being displayed and deployed more quickly -- but SOA doesn't get credit for that, either. Third, dev ops, application operations and conversions to common deployment platforms are highly dependent upon services and service-oriented strategy and technology; but again, SOA isn't mentioned. Finally, the explosive use of containers for application portability, code portability and microservices stems from SOA principles, yet SOA gets nary a mention, Lehmann said.
"Those four things are dominating IT, but SOA is a wallflower," he said. "It was brought to the dance, but it's not on the dance floor."
The API battle rages on
Carl Lehman451 Research
Meanwhile, the API battle is still going strong, although 2014 should have been the end of it, according to Roberto Medrano, executive vice president of SOA Software Inc. REST and SOAP devotees are still at odds over how to create and govern APIs and API management, with SOA being the underlying architecture.
Developers may want to implement APIs in Web services and REST, but at the end of the day SOA is still the architecture that will override everything else.
"How you implement services is just an implementation," Medrano said. Although some organizations are trying to build a product for API management and a separate product for Web services, he noted, the reality is, they should be the same product.
Design time governance of APIs still hasn't happened either. "A lot of people in the SOA world for APIs concentrate on running time and forget the lifecycle management of APIs," Medrano said. However, with the growing popularity of APIs -- most organizations have one to five in their portfolios -- in 2015, he expects to see forward movement in a lifecycle managed process for new and revised APIs.
With mobile devices, the small footprint offered by REST might have been necessary. But that didn't mean Web services was moved to REST in 2014, Medrano said. Instead, because organizations already use services on SOA, they're less likely to re-architect them on REST and more likely to reuse what they already have for repositories, registries or management for both Web services and APIs, he said.
Business hasn't caught on to SOA technologies
Finally, the business units driving mobile, cloud and API development still don't understand SOA technologies very well, according to Medrano. In 2014, business units were supposed to take over new SOA implementations. However, the reality is that IT organizations need to control how applications are built and running. As business units were deciding what they wanted their applications to do and then looking at the technology required, they learned that it would make more sense to put IT in charge, he said.
Considering the publicized breaches among large retailers, not just with SOA technologies but related to API security and Web services, businesses cannot take over the implementations, Medrano said. "SOA is still a parlance of the IT architecture organization," he said. The IT organization is what will drive SOA-based implementations because of its reusability and agility, particularly because businesses want to be agile.
"SOA is not disappearing," Medrano said. "Our architectures stay for a long time."
However, today no one wants to call it SOA, said Lehmann. "They like compartmentalizing it," he said, noting that everyone from business units to IT developers use monikers like microservices and containers. Each technology has its own characteristics, and from a usage perspective, its own disciplines, yet SOA is still the underpinning for all.
Although calling new technologies "SOA" hasn't been cool, SOA principles have been the building blocks for many of them, like the new integration platform as a service offerings and dev ops.
"The lessons learned from SOA constructs are the fundamental building blocks that they used to create new, innovative, disruptive technologies and have spawned new industries," Lehmann said. Maybe 2015 will be the year that SOA finally sits at the cool kids' lunch table.
Christine Parizo is a freelance writer specializing in business and technology. She focuses on feature articles for a variety of technology and business-focused publications, as well as case studies and white papers for business-to-business technology companies. Prior to launching her freelance career, Parizo was an Assistant News Editor for searchCRM.com.