The SOA bandwagon

Just a quick post this morning from sunny Dover, Delaware. I’m doing an XML class this week with a brief introduction to web services.

Web services is hot, but mostly because the buzzwords “service oriented architecture” is hot. I can understand the motivation: high level IT executives see all these systems they’ve spent so many millions of dollars on and wonder why they can’t all work together.

(Insert your own, “can’t we all just get along?” joke here.)

A web service is generally interpreted these days as an XML API for a system. Wrap them all in XML APIs and suddenly you’ve achieved integration through the sophisticated use of text files. Of course, the devil is always in the details. Integration isn’t always so easy, and a true service oriented architecture is more than just an XML wrapper — to get the real benefit you should create common baseline services that everyone can access, and ultimately the individual systems themselves dissolve into assemblies of services. That’s not nearly as likely to happen.

In analogy with the heady days of the late 90s when we were “web enabling” everything, I like to call this phase “web service enabling.” Just as back then some systems were a lot easier to web enable than others, so today the costs and benefits of web service enabling systems varies widely based on their original designs.

It’s an interesting topic, though. We’ll see how it plays out, given the growing developer antipathy towards XML (favoring JSON and “convention over configuration” instead).

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