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Three myths about SOA cloud providers have to stop falling for

When it comes to SOA, cloud providers often don't realize that much of what they've heard is based on misconceptions and unfair stigma.

What cloud providers don't know about service-oriented architecture could hinder their ability to be successful.

There are three big myths about the use of service-oriented architecture (SOA) within cloud computing. Moreover, there is a stigma that seems to be attached to SOA that causes some confusion as well. As we clear up these misconceptions about SOA, cloud providers will see that the two models have much in common.

Myth #1: SOA is dead

Everything in the cloud is an API or a service. It's a service-oriented model, no matter what you want to call it.

This misconception owes its roots to a 2009 blog by then-Burton Group analyst Anne Thomas Manes titled "SOA is Dead; Long Live Services." However, there is something much more profound in this statement than what the first half of the title suggests. We are moving to the use of services, but that is the foundation of SOA. Manes' contention is that SOA is perceived as complex and difficult to understand, and we need to define it with a simple pattern: the use of services. "But perhaps that's the challenge: The acronym got in the way. People forgot what SOA stands for," she wrote.

This article continues to haunt the discussion whenever I mention SOA in the context of cloud computing. Service providers and consumers alike consider SOA a long-dead discipline and technology set. In reality, SOA should be considered the foundation upon which to build and use cloud-based systems.

Everything in the cloud is an application programming interface or a service. It's a service-oriented model, no matter what you want to call it or regardless of whether you think SOA is dead.

We need and should use SOA-based approaches to reach the desired state of cloud services, especially considering that SOA is about using services correctly, in proper sequence and with a proper design. It's about turning business- and infrastructure-centric cloud services into targeted business solutions where volatility exists in a configurable domain.

If cloud consumers use your services successfully to reach their goals, you can sell more services and make more money. SOA is not dead. It is actually alive and well, and it is driving your profits.

Myth #2: SOA is complex

This is absolutely untrue. SOA is not complex. It got mired in a long, academic discussion about 10 years ago, but now it's back to reality. SOA is about breaking systems down to their component parts and building them back up again as sets of services that can be formed and reformed into business solutions through composite applications and business process layers. Because of this, SOA-based approaches offer users faster time-to-market as well as the ability to quickly change services for greater agility.

Like SOA, cloud computing also aims to provide sets of services that can be formed and reformed into business solutions. This is why most cloud-based applications use composite services, such as storage, compute, data, middleware and other services you may find in Platform as a Service or Infrastructure as a Service environments. The concept of assembling these services within the context of an application or business process is also what SOA is all about. Not so complex anymore, is it?

Myth #3: SOA is a technology

SOA is something you do, not something you buy. It's a pattern of architecture that allows you to deal with systems of services and thus provide more agile, expandable business solutions. While many people associate SOA with technology such as enterprise service buses and other types of so-called "SOA technology," SOA was actually never about technology.

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When vendors sold SOA as a technology -- including those products branded as "SOA in a box" -- they typically failed to deliver the value. Those software architects who used SOA as an approach, such as those providers that create cloud-based services these days, found that approaching development through the use of low- and high-level services made the development of business solutions and applications faster and easier.

I suspect the concept of SOA will continue to grow in the emerging world of cloud computing, no matter what they want to call it. But make no mistake: SOA is not dead, it's not complex and it's certainly not a technology.

The use of services is foundational to most public clouds, and successful cloud providers understand how those services will be used in the context of a business solution. These services will become parts of systems that are just a collection of services. It just makes sense to incorporate best practices into the design, development and deployment of these systems. And that's what SOA is really about.

About the author:
David "Dave" S. Linthicum is a senior vice president at Cloud Technology Partners, a Boston-based cloud consultancy. He is an internationally recognized cloud industry expert, and he is the author and co-author of 13 books on computing, including the best-selling Enterprise Application Integration. Linthicum speaks at many leading technology conferences on cloud computing, service-oriented architecture, enterprise application integration and enterprise architecture.

His latest book is Cloud Computing and SOA Convergence in Your Enterprise: A Step-by-Step GuideHis industry experience includes tenures as chief technology officer and CEO of several successful software companies and upper-level management positions in Fortune 100 companies. In addition, he was an associate professor of computer science for eight years and continues to lecture at major technical colleges and universities, including the University of Virginia, Arizona State University and the University of Wisconsin.

This was last published in January 2014

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How has cloud computing affected the need for a serious discussion about SOA?