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A recent guest editorial by ZapThink’s Ron Schmelzer on has gone out on a limb and panned Microsoft’s messaging around Oslo and its greater SOA strategy.  Schmelzer and ZapThink really believe that Microsoft has SOA all wrong.  The most prominent objection in the editorial seems to be that Microsoft is way too nuts and bolts about SOA — seeing it as more about application integration and less about the architectural paradigm shift that many SOA proponents feel is crucial, not only to understanding SOA, but to understanding software today.  Quoting Schmelzer: “Microsoft has made a critical (if not fatal) mistake of turning SOA into a developer initiative focused on standards-based interoperability.”

At first blush, this critique sounds spot on, because Microsoft has made this alleged error before.  In fact, when the first version of BizTalk launched, it was hampered by Microsoft’s selling it as a developer tool.  If Steve Ballmer’s infamous Developers-Developers-Developers “monkey dance” is the company’s hammer, then we shouldn’t be surprised if Microsoft turns everything into developer nails.

But is that what’s really going on here?  For ZapThink, what is the crux of the philosophical/paradigmatic misstep on Microsoft’s part?  Quoting the editorial again: "The real power of SOA is not simply in standards-based integration (didn't XML and EDI provide that, too?), but in the power of composing heterogeneous services in environments of continual change."

In other words, SOA is all about loose coupling, and building (composite) apps around and for it, rather than point-to-point integration over Web services.  OK.  What in the Oslo messaging (and technology) somehow precludes this?  Isn't this what things like BizTalk Services, ADO.NET Data Services, SQL Server Data Services, support of RESTful services in WCF, and the WebClient programming model in Silverlight are all about?

I’m worried that there’s a failure of rhetoric (to quote The Police, backwards) here.  Microsoft does speak to the "connected business” in their messaging, and they absolutely speak to the necessity of helping developers build Web Services at scale, and with less plumbing engineering for each implementation.  Perhaps that’s not organized well for those that feel strongly that the priority should be on getting developers to build things that are solidly factored and designed for-reuse.  If Microsoft concentrates too heavily on helping developers hook stuff together, and doesn’t place a premium on changing the way developers think and plan how they build software, isn’t that selling SOA short?

At the very least, that criticism is doctrinaire.  It’s doesn’t speak to the substance of what .NET 3.0+ and Oslo are about (or not about), but is instead an oblique objection to what Microsoft is not saying, and not being fervent about.  Even if that sort of policy-oriented protectionism were reasonable, is the architectural principle of re-use-before-all-else providing the results to merit such an emotional defense?  If SOA is mostly about software re-use in the enterprise, how’s that mission working out, anyway?

To quote one analyst in a piece entitled Core Value of a SOA is the Ability to Reuse Services? Not a Chance.:  “[the value of] reuse is …much less than we expected, or the ‘SOA hype’ has been stating. The true value of SOA is the ability to create enterprise architectures that provide much better agility than the overly complex, static, and fragile architectures we have around today.”

Whoever said that seems in sync with some of the Oslo ideas around modeling, developer productivity and building scalable services.  Whoever said that must be in Microsoft’s pocket, right?  Ironically, it was ZapThink’s own David Linthicum.  If you’d like, read the full piece, so you can have all the context.

Is it really sensible for ZapThink to make re-use politics the backbone of its critique of Microsoft’s SOA strategy?  Granted re-use was not the phrase ZapThink used, but it’s the concept they seemed to invoke.  Meanwhile, ZapThink seems to lack re-use even amongst its own analysts.  Small wonder they dislike the phrase “connected business.”

Posted on Wednesday, July 2, 2008 11:43 PM | Back to top

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