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The top SOA/Web services stories of 2006, part 2

The second part of this look back at the past year includes users deploying SOA, the advent of governance, acquisition mania and the uncertain future of Java.

2006 proved another big year for SOA and Web services and we've picked out the top eight stories from the past year and we'll be covering numbers four through one in this second installment of our year-end countdown.

The mashup of governance and SOA this year was a realization by the vendors that SOA can be an overlay to IT.
Dana Gardner
Principal AnalystInterarbor Solutions LLC

4. SOA works

Lost amid the vendor, analyst and media spin on SOA has been the fact that IT shops are actually doing it. Service-oriented architecture has gone way beyond theory. Solid corporate citizens have begun to put an emphasis on technical architecture.

During 2006 we heard the praises of SOA sung by British American Tobacco, Transamerica, Amazon, The Hartford, Aetna, Vital Forsikring, Ertan Hydropower, Washington Group International, Monster Worldwide, the nation of Denmark and ING Group.

"People have gone from 'What is SOA?' to 'How do I do SOA?'" said Ron Schmelzer, senior analyst at ZapThink LLC. "Businesses like the concept. It makes sense."

Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions LLC, keyed in on the steadiness of the adoption.

"We're not going to see some huge tipping point where everybody suddenly buys a technology that's ready like with wide area networking 10, 12 years ago," he said. "SOA requires a strategic approach to IT and that requires a cultural shift inside a company."

Gardner noted that SOA is such a strategic benefit that "some of the best SOA stories out there probably will remain secret." Yet he believes SOA will be a driver behind companies that suddenly start to dominate their markets in the coming years.

3. SOA looks for governance

At the start of the year there was talk of a governance gap in SOA and users started to stress the importance of SOA governance. In fact, the term got thrown around so much that we took a step back to define SOA governance for those who legitimately might be confused.

Along the way, companies like IBM and AmberPoint unveiled detailed SOA governance strategies. Users like Dun & Bradstreet deemed governance as "extremely" important as fears about things like rogue services increased.

"Governance is not just for SOA, it's really IT governance," Gardner said. "The mashup of governance and SOA this year was a realization by the vendors that SOA can be an overlay to IT. It allows SOA to be a transformational concept for what you've already got in place."

Schmelzer positioned governance as "the only way to avoid chaos, which IT already has enough of."

He said that ungoverned Web services usage could create myriad problems, using the example of the Google Maps API as an example.

"What happens if Google changes the API?" he asked. "Does everything break? How would you know? How do you fix it?"

2. Acquisition mania

The year started with a bang when Mercury Interactive bought SOA registry vendor Systinet. Six months later the Systinet deal was seen as one of the central reasons for why HP bought Mercury. Other notable acquisitions included Progress Software buying Web services management vendor Actional, Red Hat buying JBoss, SOA Software scooping up Web services mediator Blue Titan, BEA Systems buying SOA repository Flashline and webMethods landing Infravio.

"Vendors realized they needed SOA-specific functionality and they went out and bought it," Schmelzer said. IBM and Oracle also scooped up a number of smaller vendors along the way. Notable by its absence was the big software vendor in Redmond, Wa.

"I'm still a little disconcerted that Microsoft hasn't picked up anybody," he said. "It's hard to tell if the SOA picture will ever be bigger than .NET for them. I don't think it will be."

Schmelzer looked at the testing and rich client spaces as rife for acquisition in 2007, particularly the latter.

"All the new startups are doing composite application development," he said.

Gardner looked at data as a service as the next big acquisition frontier.

"There's all these data issues you've got to solve before you get your SOA working," he said. "And there's all these smaller vendors out there who have interesting data and business intelligence technology."

1. The uncertain future of the Java platform

It started with a blast, when analysts this summer predicted the demise of the Java enterprise platform. Obviously vendors begged to differ, but the reality of the new SOA world order is that Java EE 5 needs to prove itself. Along the way, we polled some of the big brains at Sun like James Gosling and Kevin Schmidt about how Java and its enterprise platform can play in a modular SOA universe where lightweight solutions are encouraged.

"How is a developer supposed to be productive with this huge thing?" Schmelzer asked. "At what point is it enough? It would have been like continuing to mess with the HTML spec."

He said he consistently runs into users who are embracing Ruby on Rails, Python and .NET because the Java enterprise edition has become unwieldy.

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Gardner sees promise in the this summer's announcement that the Java platform will be open sourced.

"They're looking at how Java can be used as a component or subset of an open source stack rather than as a standalone platform," he said.

No one expects the Java programming language will disappear, but it also looks like the days of an indivisible Java platform are numbered.

"Like anything else, Java's had to keep up with the times," Gardner said.

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