Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Gartner Bullish on SOA (Tell Us Something We Don't know!)

Once again, Joe McKendrick out at ZDNet published a very quotable blog article. He cites a few notable sentiments from Gartner research director, L. Frank Kenney, about the outlook of SOA and throws in a few of his own.

Kenney suggests firms "aggressively invest in SOA as it will rapidly become the architectural foundation for virtually every new business-critical application." McKendrick adds that, according to Gartner, 80% of mission-critical operational applications and business processes will be SOA-driven by 2010. (I assume these are IT solutions as opposed to "over-the-counter" ones.)

This message shouldn't shock anyone who has been following Gartner's SOA forecasts over the last few years. But what is unique about McKendrick's article is its cautionary tone against using Gartner's bullish outlook as an excuse to go on an SOA spending spree. He states that "the downside [of SOA initiatives] is that too much is being expected of SOA in too short of a time" and adds a few more quotes from Kenney supporting the notion that it can take a long time, years even, for SOA to show appreciable ROI.

The lesson here is that companies should be very careful not to run up their SOA tabs simply because SOA is becoming big business. SOA is an investment in the future of the company. Like any good investment, SOA will operate in the red for a while before it matures and begins to show real returns. (I've never heard of a passenger jet that paid for itself on its maiden voyage or a brand new office high-rise that broke even before all its floors were built.)

Companies should invest in SOA, but not foolishly. A dollar spent on SOA today is a dollar that won't be seen again until sometime after our next president is sworn in. It's a realization that every SOA stakeholder should be comfortable with. So, by all means, go shopping. But take a list! Know exactly what you're buying and how long it's going to take to pay it off.

(See my recent whitepaper for more of my thoughts on how much SOA really costs.)

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