Re-Reading Gartner tealeaves: SOA is not a train wreck

A cursory look at a SOA survey shows the sky falling. A deeper look into the survey itself presents a more positive picture of global SOA implementations.

There was a sky-is-falling frenzy in the blogosphere of late in reaction to a Gartner Inc. press release headlined: "Number of Organizations Planning to Adopt SOA for the First Time Is Falling Dramatically."

However, a look into the survey itself presents a more positive picture of global SOA implementations. The survey found that in 2008, the number of organizations planning to adopt SOA in the next 12 months fell to 25 percent from 53 percent in 2007, but it also found that 53 percent already have SOA up and running.

"Looking at the Gartner findings, it isn't any kind of train wreck, said Dana Gardner, principal analyst of Interarbor Solutions LLC. "Fifty three percent are already doing SOA and 25 percent on top of that are planning to do it in the next 12 months. That's 78 percent. That doesn't strike me as negative.

Given the current global economic climate, Gardner said, it makes sense for late-adopter organizations to continue to defer SOA initiatives.

The fact that people are picking and choosing their initiatives, makes sense in general," he said. "It makes even more sense when you're under economic pressure."

Daniel Sholler, research vice president at Gartner, who oversees the annual survey also marks the influence of tight budgets in tough economic times as a factor in fewer companies starting SOA initiatives. In the midst of this recession, he believes IT executives are saying: "Look I'm not going to spend a lot of time and attention on this right now."

He emphasizes that the survey conducted in the spring and summer months before the October stock market crash, was only asking about plans for the next 12 months.

While the falloff in new project plans is "a tremendous shift" from the attitude toward SOA in previous years, Sholler does not see a postponement as a death knell.

"It's not that those people don't believe that they are eventually going to do service-oriented architecture," the Gartner analyst said. "It doesn't change the sense of inevitability. It just changes the time horizon on which they actively think they have to do something."

Obscured by cloud computing?
Miko Matsumura, deputy CTO of Software AG, says the inevitability of enterprise IT moving to composite applications with services reuse is true even during tough economic times. He also offers the hypothesis that some of the fall off in people saying they plan to adopt SOA, is the result of the acronym losing popularity as major vendors including Microsoft tout their compute cloud initiatives.

"The reality is people are doing projects to have re-useable services," Matsumura says, regardless of whether the data center is in-house or in the compute cloud. "They are still proceeding according to plan. Whether those projects are called SOA or they are called "pickle juice" they will still move forward. The enterprises that we are working with are continuing on a pace with on and off-premise infrastructure."

That current SOA projects are on-going despite the economy is something Sholler said he also finds in talking with Gartner clients.

Whether those projects are called SOA or they are called "pickle juice" they will still move forward.
Miko Matsumura
Deputy CTOSoftware AG

"In the conversations we've been having," he said, "I have not talked to a lot of people who are telling me that they have big projects that have been cancelled. Even in the banking and financial services sector a lot of SOA notions are starting to come to the fore."

The Gartner analyst said that in the embattled financial sector banks are looking to reduce costs, and view the SOA focus on reuse of existing code as a way to save money.

Despite the recession, Matsumura said bold companies are moving forward with SOA. "Re-usability and compose-ability will serve them well when there's an upturn," he said.

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