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Is SOA Too Big to Fail?

by David M. Smith  |  April 15, 2009  |  1 Comment

Caution, it’s SOA humor day.

With all the talk of institutions being ‘too big to fail’ and bailouts and such, I can’t help but stop and ask ‘is SOA too big to fail’?

Has the United SOAs of America named a TSAR (to run the Toxic SOA Asset Relief) program? (OK I should have used that on April 1 but the competition is too tough that day).

Is the medicine for Toxic SOA the cure-all  magical ‘private cloud’? You’d think so if you’d had some of the conversations I’ve had lately with IT and vendors.

Yes, the concept of private cloud is valid, but as with many terms, overused, overhyped, and misapplied. The private cloud fixation is not just for data center people trying to claim that their ‘well run data center’ is now a cloud (poof), but also for SOAphiles claiming that what they’ve been doing (or in the case of vendors, selling) is now a private cloud. What’s that thundering sound we are hearing across the IT landscape? It’s all the SOA hangers-on jettisoning the former sacred cow and jumping onto the ‘private cloud’ bandwagon.

This type of ‘cloudwashing’ is inevitable. But, what really matters is that we don’t just blindly allow it to kid ourselves into simply relabeling something that hasn’t worked into something else that will also likely not work. I can already see the Ann Thomas Manes post of 2012 declaring that private clouds are dead… :-)


My use of the term SOA is that of the common use (e.g., enterprise class use of SOA concepts, typically top-down big projects), not the official Gartner use which is broader and includes concepts like WOA.

Also, of course, restating and emphasizing that the opinions in this piece are mine (and those of like-minded SOAphobes) and not official research positions of Gartner.

And if you don’t like SOA humor, then why are you reading my blog? :-)


David Mitchell Smith
VP & Gartner Fellow
16 years at Gartner
30 years IT industry

David Mitchell Smith is a vice president and Gartner Fellow in Gartner Research, where he specializes in the impact of catalytic technologies such as the Internet, Web 2.0, cloud computing and consumer technologies. Read Full Bio

Thoughts on Is SOA Too Big to Fail?

  1. It’s refreshing to hear someone have a sense of humor about SOA for once! I was worried that SOA was confounding everyone to the point that they were taking it much too seriously, and that the concept was staying far more conceptual than practical.

    So thank you, David, for opening up the window and letting in some fresh air. All of these overused words and concepts are getting SOA in trouble. Most potential customers are confused and still looking for a Philosopher’s Stone that will transform so much nonsense into actual business efficiency.

    These customers are lost in the dark forest of “complete” and “definitive” solutions. To find their way, customers turn to software vendors and system integrator consultants who offer their services either for a fee (the former) or for free, using open-source software (the latter). This fairy tale becomes a nightmare, however, when witches try to trick customers into biting their poisoned apple. (I leave you to decide who the witches and fairies are.)

    Like a smug person, when SOA is too big, it fails. To be successful, it has to keep its feet on the ground and be based in reality. Generally, that means dealing with legacies rather than proposing supposedly ideal, yet disconnected, plans.

    By the way, hello to Ann Thomas Main, from the good ol’ days of middleware, when we envisioned a new world where everything would be available from the network without us knowing where it comes from. I am happy that we will finally reach that dream in 2012. I’ll be happy to celebrate with her.

    Jean-Claude Bellando
    Sr. Product Marketing Manager

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