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The top SOA stories of 2007, part 2

The absorption of BI vendors, widespread instances of SOA in production, persistent data problems and REST top the list of SOA stories for 2007.

In the first part of our look back at 2007, we covered Microsoft, SOA's connection to business, the architecture shortage and ongoing issues with SOA governance and management.

All of those were major issues throughout the year, but four other stories trumped them. Without any further delay, here they are.

4. SOA vendors gobble up the BI market

Late in 2006 we wrote a story about how business intelligence (BI) was being viewed by some as the windows into your service-oriented architecture. Apparently some sizable vendors agreed.

During 2007, Oracle Corp. bought Hyperion Solutions Corp. for $3.3 billion, SAP AG acquired Business Objects SA for $6.7 billion and IBM scooped up Cognos Inc. for $4.9 billion.

Plans are supposedly to tie those BI products to the SOA platforms in each of those companies – Oracle Fusion, SAP NetWeaver and IBM WebSphere. How it will all play out remains to be seen as the integration work for those platforms has just begun, but huge gobs of money were spent to bring these product sets together, so service-oriented BI promises to be a story to watch in 2008.

According to analysts, even with the movement of three software titans into the BI space, plenty of room still remains for best of breed BI players.

3. SOA everywhere you look

Amidst all the debate about the best ways to develop, deploy and manage SOA, the reality is users are popping out of the woodwork:

Yet even with the furious amounts of activity, analysts warn the majority adoption phase hasn't quite started.

"We're not in the majority adoption phase yet because the decision making is fractured," said Steve Craggs, founder of Lustratus Research Inc. "The projects are asking 'Why do I need to pay for this?' They're resistant to putting these strategic initiatives on their budgets."

Neil Macehiter, research director at Macehiter Ward-Dutton also sees a disjointed user community.

"I think in part the answer to this question depends on the scope of the organizational ambition when it comes to SOA -- e.g. Web services-based application integration versus enterprise wide, IT-enabled business transformation," he said. "In the case of the former there is certainly widespread adoption although, even then, I would argue it remains focused on individuals projects rather than enterprise-wide. "

2. Don't forget the data

The year started with good news on the data integration front when the XQuery specification finally gained W3C ratification. REST was also picked as potential ally in creating a data services layer.

In fact, analysts urged users to apply SOA best practices to data integration. They laid out the data integration lifecycle and data governance techniques.

Yet reports are that data architecture has largely been ignored by users as they pursue SOA, creating performance problems and undercutting ROI.

The epidemic nature of the problem probably requires more than a few users to review data abstraction worst practices.

"Many SOA initiatives began with a focus on application development and integration and data has always been the poor relation, and subordinate to applications," Macehiter said. "We have long been advocating that organizations need to recognize the importance of common data models early in the process. For example, many of the ESB solutions have their origins in EAI and provide capabilities around data transformation within the service layer rather than behind the service interface where it should be."

1. REST invades

In late May we ran a story on a Burton Group report that REST is emerging quickly within the SOA space. It turned out to be the runaway winner for our most-viewed story of the year.

That same week, IBM WebSphere CTO Jerry Cuomo mused about REST potentially becoming the basis for a development platform. Within three months, Big Blue had launched Project Zero, its attempt to build a REST-based development platform.

Microsoft began heading down the REST highway with Astoria. REST support was the eye catcher in the new version of Ruby on Rails. MuleSource Inc. brought in XFire creator Dan Diephouse to design open source REST tools for SOA. By the end of the year, WSO2's Paul Fremantle was talking about building a REST-based registry/repository.

Of course, if everyone starts using REST to create Web services it raises the question of how do you govern it? No one's quite figured that out yet because we're still only in the hype wave when it comes to REST.

Craggs counts himself as a skeptic when it comes to REST.

"I think it's all a con," he said. "From a business point of view I don't understand what the benefits are."

While REST may be simple, direct and elegant to a programmer, Craggs said he has yet to see where REST will cut development costs or speed time to market.

"It's just another cool, new technology and businesses don't particularly need that," he said. "That can cause more problems than it solves."

While some speculate the REST could obliterate the now staid Web services SOAP specification, Jason Bloomberg, senior analyst at ZapThink LLC, remains unconvinced.

"REST is simpler than SOAP and leverages the well-understood benefits, and quirks, of HTTP," he said. "But it's really a matter of the right tool for the job. Asking which is better is tantamount to asking whether a screwdriver or a hammer is a better tool."

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