With a stated goal of developing skills for enterprise architects and others working on service-oriented architecture projects an unusual alliance between a vendor and an analyst firm is launching a Web 2.0 style online SOA education community.
Master Class Online, which launches today, is the brain child of Miko Matsumura, vice president of SOA products at webMethods, Inc., with support from Ron Schmelzer, a founder of ZapThink LLC., an analyst firm specializing in SOA and Web services. Matsumura said the need for more SOA education programs was highlighted in ZapThink's "SOA Forecast for 2007," which concluded with the "dire prediction that there simply won't be enough qualified and SOA experienced enterprise architects around."
The greatest stumbling block to the advance of SOA development is not technology, but a "skill gap" that may mean organizations will not have the knowledge needed to design and implement a service-oriented approach to business applications, according to Schmelzer. "The real thing that's holding SOA back is the lack of architectural experience," the analyst said in a recent interview. "Something has to be done. If this gap isn't filled I think the entire movement to service-oriented architecture could basically fail."
Taking this prediction to heart, Matsumura spent the past several months pulling together "Master Class Online," recruiting a faculty of people he refers to as "SOA masters," including David Linthicum of the Linthicum Group and Neil Ward-Dutton of Macehiter Ward-Dutton, as well as Schmelzer and ZapThink's other senior analyst Jason Bloomberg. Working 20-hour days, rolling up his sleeves to do PHP programming, Matsumura built the Web site for the online learning community which features video lectures, hands-on tutorials, as well as Web 2.0 blogs where students can ask questions, get answers from instructors and exchange not only technical information, but ideas and creative concepts.
"The thing that we're really trying to foster here is what I would consider to be a collection of small realizations," Matsumura said. "Traditionally technologies undergo an adoption curve with early adopters and early majority. The thing that is interesting about SOA is that it is not just technology. It's ideas, concepts, architecture. So what we're trying to do is foster and enable people to have realizations and share realizations. We've opted for a model where we have a nucleus of ideas we want to put forth, but the model is very strongly community influenced, so people can engage and foster their own ideas."
The Web 2.0 community concept is thus aimed not only at teaching basic SOA skills, but creating a community of people who "get" SOA as a concept and are willing to share not only their knowledge but their creativity and enthusiasm, he said. To this end, the site includes Webinars, video content, syndicated blogs, discussion forums and every topic on the site has integrated functions such as social book-marking and RSS feeds.
Participation in Master Class Online is free and is designed so students can visit it when they want for as long as they want, Matsumura said. He envisions scenarios where someone working on an SOA project might visit the site for information on a specific technical issue. A fledgling architect would be able to obtain the information they need anonymously without betraying an embarrassing lack of knowledge to their bosses or co-workers. They can upgrade their knowledge during their lunch hour or in the evenings and on weekends without needing to ask their company for time off and tuition to travel to a brick-and-mortar learning environment, Matsumura said.
"It could be their secret weapon," he quipped.
Others may seek to take a more comprehensive approach, working their way through the curriculum which begins in the college-style with 100-level courses in SOA basics, which are vendor and technology neutral, Matsumura said.
The more advanced 200-level courses focus on SOA governance and feature tutorials using the Infravio registry/repository product that webMethods acquired this past summer. While he admits that he would not be disappointed if students decide to use the Infravio technology in their SOA projects after completing this level, Matsumura insists that the much of the knowledge gained would apply to the use of any other governance project.
Students wanting to advance beyond the 200-level are encouraged by Matsumura to consider ZapThink's Master Architect Training and Education programs, that include one-day and multi-day classroom sessions with an opportunity to acquire SOA certification from ZapThink.
Matsumura said classes begin today at SOAMasterClass.com