May 31, 2007

SOA and its IMPACT 2007

Before the Memorial Day holiday I was fortunate enough to be able to attend the IMPACT 2007 user conference in Orlando, Florida. There were about 4000 attendees from a variety of vendors, end user organizations, analysts, and the media all present discussing with great intensity the state of Service Oriented Architecture and its impact on businesses. Overall, I am pleased to say that the high level theme of the event was not about technology but rather discussing the business value of technology and how SOA way has transformed how many organizations view IT and align it with their business processes.

On day one, there was a bit of levity given that Don McMillan, the engineer comic, was the master of ceremonies for the various keynote speeches given by a variety of IBM executives and partners. However, all of the speeches illustrated the degree of acceptance that SOA has achieved in many organizations in a very short period of time. This seems to be contrast to the state of SOA just a few years ago.

Around 1999 or 2000 we started hearing much about web services and how it would become the new way of computing in the enterprise. Not too surprisingly at the time the focus was all about the technological implementation. Yet at the same time, some of us pundit types even came up with names like Service Computing (from Zona Research lore) to describe the shift web services implied whereby business process would start to drive IT rather than the historic opposite. SOA has supplanted web services in most respects as a much broader and more strategic blueprint by which to deliver IT services within the enterprise, and happily to my way of thinking, appears to have caught the attention of many others as well.

While there were many sessions about implementing SOA in software design, it was quite notable that there was Business Leader track that targeted the C-level and other executives as well as line of business professionals. This non-technical track was focused on the business agility and competitive advantage that SOA could offer an organization. I can think of no better illustration that SOA has reached a respectable degree of maturity than the existence of this track.

It is encouraging to see that business process was such a dominate theme. While some may take this to mean BPM, I see it in a much larger context. After all, the reason organizations purchase IT products and services is to support their business. Although the late 1980s and 1990s often had many businesses wondering aloud if they in fact had started a second business, i.e. the IT datacenter business, the reality is there would be no IT market without demonstrable business results from use of IT. This clarity of mission is made much stronger by SOA, and I am pleased to say that based upon the crowds at the IMPACT 2007 event, this message seems to be well received and resonating.

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