Long a critic of the major software vendors' suite approach to service-oriented architecture (SOA), Annrai O'Toole, CEO of Cape Clear Software Inc., says he is now seeing the emergence of a trend he likes, hosted SOA.
Both software as a service (SaaS) vendors and large enterprise IT shops are adopting the concept of hosting integration based on SOA standards and architecture, he said. When asked how hosted on-demand SOA works, O'Toole points to Workday Inc., founded by former PeopleSoft executives, it offers ERP on a hosted basis using CapeClear software.
"Our point of view is largely colored by our experience with Workday," he said. "What we've seen Workday do and really pioneer in this space is the whole notion of hosted integration."
Intellectually, he said he had long thought that hosted SOA would be the future, but he had no practical example to point to until Workday began doing it.
"What Workday is doing is hosting integration to services like ADP [Automatic Data Processing Inc. payroll systems]," he explained. "So if you're using Workday to do your payroll, what they do is host the integration between your information and ADP to do the payroll and print checks for your employees. Workday is hosting that on their site. They're actually building and maintaining hosted integration between their customers and ADP using CapeClear. All of this is based not only on the SOA principles, but what's enabling this is the set of Web services standards for SOA architecture."
IT shops can also do hosted SOA, O'Toole said. "Some of our bigger, more traditional enterprise customers are increasingly hosting integration in a centralized site and managing those integrations in a centralized data center. Either it is customers in the case of Workday or branch offices in the case of larger IT organizations. They don't have to manage those integrations on a local basis."
As the CapeClear CEO sees it, hosted SOA solves a number of problems, including the shortage of enterprise architects and developers who know how to do SOA, which analysts see currently hampering SOA expansion. With its SOA hosted by existing experts at a SaaS vendor, there is no need for a company to search for expensive programming talent, O'Toole argues.
"When you start doing hosted integration you remove a lot of the complexity of SOA," he said. "The people who want to use these services don't have to deal with that complexity."
In his criticism of the major vendors with their SOA suites, he blames them for adding unnecessary complexity in an attempt to achieve old fashioned vendor lock-in and lock out pure play vendors.
"Over the last year or so SOA's become a big topic for customers. As it's become a big topic, a lot of the big vendors have come in trying to make SOA a big vendor issue. To do that they've tried to make SOA very complicated," O'Toole said. "We've seen a lot of customers issue huge RFPs. These things are coming in and they're several inches thick. It would make a member of Congress blush and we just think that's all wrong."
He said while some customer buy a single vendor's SOA stack, he is seeing others reject that idea and look at the hosted alternative.
"Our thesis is that the SOA stack – this big complex version of SOA is all wrong," O'Toole said. "In fact, the real notion of SOA is more aligned with on-demand software as a service. What customers like about on-demand is that it's simple. You don't have to do a big software install. A lot of what we're seeing from pure play software as a service vendors, but also some large IT shops is that they're really orienting SOA around on-demand. We think this is a big change coming in the whole SOA world."