You're going to deal with SOA, whether you like it or not

There were several themes at the Gartner Integration and Web Services Summit this week, but I think the one that struck the loudest chord was the imperative that whether your organization has decided to move forward with SOA or not, you are going to be forced to deal with SOA in some way, shape or form in the near future.

No, Gartner can't make you adopt SOA or web services, but its analysts are right when they ponftificate that you're going to be forced to deal with it sooner or later. While enterprises were considering the ramifications of yet another radical architectural change, ISVs like Oracle, BEA, SAP, PeopleSoft, and Siebel were grabbing onto SOA as a means to reduce costs, decrease time to market, and increase their ability to rapidly respond to market demands.

It may seem odd that because ISVs have adopted SOA it should change your opinion of SOA, but the ISVs have figured out that it's much cheaper and easier to build, maintain, and support a single API than it is to build, test, maintain, and support multiple versions of the same API.

That's right - the future of integration with packaged applications lies with SOA and web services, and whether you want to go SOA or not, you're going to see it inside your corporate walls. It makes sense for the ISVs. Why invest money and time into APIs and SDKs that require ongoing investments to maintain, document, support, and train when you can support a single, standards-based API through SOAP and Web Services that can be accessed and used regardless of operating system, platform, or language?

Even here at F5 we take this approach. Our iControl management API for BIG-IP is a standards-based, web services interface that can be integrated quickly and efficiently from just about anywhere. Rather than build an SDK for Windows C#, and another for Java, and another for Linux, we've got one common interface that makes it simple to integrate into third-party packages as well as your own applications. That's right - from your application you can control the delivery of your application using iControl*. It's the same model that packaged application vendors are using today, and eventually it will likely be the only way you'll be able to integrate with purchased applications.

Having tested application and integration products for many years at Network Computing, I'm all for standards-based integration and anything that reduces the pain and suffering inflicted on those tasked with integrating products through outdated integration techniques like proprietary adapters.

So while the message coming from Gartner may have sounded harsh, I guess the old adage "sometimes the truth hurts" rings true. SOA is coming to an infrastructure near you, whether you like it or whether you don't.

* Disclaimer: F5 is not responsible for bribing your network admininstrators to give you access, you'll have to buy the donuts on your own.

Imbibing: Coffee