January is named after Janus, the Roman two-headed god who simultaneously looks back toward the past, and forward to the future. So in this column, we'll take a look back at Web services and SOA in 2005 and to what we might expect in 2006.
The Year in SOA
For SOA, the year was either a very good one, in which the technology finally entrenched itself in corporate America, or was merely in a holding pattern, depending on who you talked to — although most analysts saw the upside, rather than the down.
"One of the biggest stories of the year was that SOA became ubiquitous," says Ronald Schmelzer, senior analyst with ZapThink. "In 2004 SOA was perhaps overhyped, but in 2005, we've finally moved beyond the hype."
Sophie Mayo, director for Web Services and SOA implementations at IDC, agrees with Schmelzer.
"SOA became serious business in 2005," she maintains. "It was the turning point in the acceptance of SOA."
Mayo adds that this acceptance has moved beyond enterprises. Services and consulting firms began focusing on providing SOA consulting and services as well, because "SOA is becoming an enabler and underpinning for many of their solutions and they see it as an enabler of new services opportunities."
But not everyone saw quite so rosy a picture. James Governor, principal analyst with Redmonk believes that "When it comes to enterprise adoption you'd have to say 2005 was a holding position year for SOA. Vendors were getting their strategies in order, in terms of both technology and marketing, working closely with aggressive early adopters to establish best practice and product development strategies."
The Surprise of the 2005
Probably the biggest surprise of the year, Schmelzer says, was the sudden emergence of Ajax as the technology flavor du jour. Although the elements of it have been around for some time, Google gave it a jumpstart by building several high-profile applications built on top of it. Corporate America took notice as well, even if they haven't yet adopted it. But analysts expect that enterprises will soon begin looking to use Ajax as front-ends to Web services, in particular for portal-based development.
Governor adds that 2005 showed "There is a lot more to Web services than SOAP, UDDI and WSDL. The Google maps API is probably one of the most interesting examples of a widely adopted Web service in 2005 … the most important trend to my mind was the increasing intersection of Web 2.0 and Web service thinking."
What Ahead in 2006?
When Governor looks ahead to 2006, he sees some of the most innovative and interesting Web services technologies continuing where AJAX and related technologies left off in 2005.
In particular, he points to the "mash-ups" or remixing that used Google Map APIs to create new, hybrid applications layered on tops of maps. He believes that the same kind of innovative thinking will begin to permeate the corporate world in 2006.
"The notion of a design pattern similarity between lightweight Web service API remixing and enterprise software reuse is an intriguing one which could begin to play out in 2006," he believes.
Schmelzer concurs and says, "We see people moving away from static portals and toward rich clients like AJAX."
Echoing Mayo's view that services firms began to take SOA seriously in 2005, he says, "We may start to see a few consulting firms emerge as powerhouses for SOA. And we'll also small and medium-sized consulting firms offer specialized SOA solutions."
Overall, he expects to see market consolidation in the areas of governance, security and metadata, a sign that the SOA market has become mature. Governor adds that "2006 is likely to be a breakthrough year though for registry/repository thinking and implementation."
In looking at what vendors may be the year's biggest winners, he points out that ERP vendors, such as SAP and Oracle gained momentum in 2005 in their uses of Web services. And 2006, he maintains, will be their breakout year, especially for SAP's NetWeaver. Oracle "will be very aggressive in this market and they'll start competing with companies they never competed with before, like middleware vendors."
Governor goes so far as to predict that other registry/repository vendors will be acquired like Systinet just was, by Mercury Interactive. "BEA, IBM, Oracle are all potential acquirers."
Mayo predicts a convergence of SOA and open source technologies and says that the year may bring the beginnings of a movement toward providing freely open source components in SOA and Web service implementations.
If it's true that AJAX and related technologies will become more popular and we begin to see the beginnings of a merger of open source with Web services, 2006 could be one of the most interesting years yet in Web services and SOA, so stay tuned.