Edited transcript of weekly BriefingsDirect[TM] SOA Insights Edition podcast, recorded April 6, 2007.
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Dana Gardner: Hello, and welcome to the latest BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition, Volume 16, a weekly discussion and dissection of Services Oriented Architecture (SOA)-related news and events with a panel of industry analysts and guests. I'm your host and moderator Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, ZDNet blogger and Redmond Development News Magazine columnist.
Our panel this week, and it is the week of April 2, 2007, consists of Steve Garone, a former IDC group vice president, founder of the AlignIT Group, and an independent IT industry analyst. Welcome, Steve.
Steve Garone: Hi Dana. Great to be here.
Gardner: Also joining us is Joe McKendrick. He is a research consultant, columnist at Database Trends and a blogger at ZDNet and ebizQ. Welcome back, Joe.
Joe McKendrick: Good morning, Dana.
Gardner: Also joining us is Jim Kobielus. Jim is a principal analyst at Current Analysis. Welcome back Jim.
Jim Kobielus: Hey, Dana. Hey, everybody.
Gardner: And, Tony Baer, Tony is a principal at OnStrategies. Hey, Tony!
Tony Baer: Hey, Dana, how are you doing?
Gardner: Great, and joining us as a first-time guest is Todd Biske. Todd is enterprise architect with MomentumSI, an Austin, Texas-based consultancy. Welcome to the show, Todd.
Todd Biske: Thanks, Dana, thanks for letting me join.
Gardner: My pleasure. Because of the big news this week with mergers and acquisitions in the SOA space, we’re going to take that as our top topic. We’re going to look at the announced acquisition of webMethods by Germany’s Software AG. We’re also going to talk about the role of Web 2.0 and SOA and perhaps delve into the notion of using wikis for governance, control, and management of assets and process.
If we have time, we’re going to jump into a discussion about SOA hype. Is SOA over-hyped or under-hyped, and that might take an hour in itself just to get started.
The news this week came as a surprise to me, and I think to many. Germany’s Software AG, a company with database and tools assets, best known for legacy implementations, legacy support -- and perhaps moving more toward modernization and, therefore, SOA -- for about $550 million in cash has announced an agreement to purchase webMethods based in the U.S., in Virginia.
WebMethods itself has recently gone through a series of acquisitions, including, most recently, Infravio. Our regular listeners may recall that we had a vice president from webMethods, Miko Matsumura, on the show just recently. So, let’s go around the table a little bit and get the take. I suppose the big questions are: Is this a big deal or a little deal, and is it a good deal or a bad deal? Let’s start with you, Steve Garone?
Garone: Well, that’s interesting question you just asked. I think it’s a good deal. I'm sure it’s a good deal for webMethods from a financial standpoint and for the folks who are going to profit individually from the acquisition. It’s also a good deal from Software AG's standpoint, given its direction to move more strongly into SOA, which I don’t think -- based on what I’ve seen -- it’s been extremely successful at doing over the last three or four years.
Software AG, if we go back maybe three, four, or five years, went through a series of fairly significant announcements with integration products and database enhancements focused on XML, leading it more toward modernizing into the web services, and eventually SOA, world. My perception is that from a business standpoint it has not been extremely successful at that, particularly in the United States.
So, this move really amounts to an effort to get a lot of customers onboard, customers who are using the webMethods products and suites. As you mentioned, we’ve talked about it on this show before. The governance aspects that resulted from the Infravio acquisition are particularly important for Software AG in terms of acquiring a customer base in the United States.
Gardner: You mentioned the price paid. We should point out the 25 percent premium that is apparently going to be paid by Software AG for webMethods that would be over its publicly traded price before the announcement.
Tony Baer, you had an interesting point in your blog. You’ve mentioned that this price, of roughly $550 million is a third, or significantly less, than the $1.3 billion that webMethods had paid back in 1999 for Active. What’s your take on this? Was this something that was of economic expediency? It seems like it happened fairly quickly after the Infravio acquisition?
Baer: Well, I think that webMethods has been looking for an exit strategy for some time, because basically they're trying to build up their SOA platform story. The fact is that large corporate customers are going to be nervous with a $200 million company. They’re probably a lot more comfortable with a company that’s closer to one billion, if they're looking for a platform play.
In terms of the pricing discrepancies, that just reflects the absurd valuations we had during the dot-com period. That was a very interesting irony. I actually liked the point you raised in your blog, Dana, which is the challenge of integrating German companies with companies of some other regions, especially the U.S. German companies tend to be very deliberate. Take a look at Shai Agassi’s recent departure from SAP. He just didn’t want to wait another couple of years to become CEO or whatever the title is over there.
Gardner: "If" he was going to become CEO.
Baer: Very good point. German companies are very deliberate. I don’t think he had the patience for that. One thing I want to point out is more of a key performance indicator. Software AG had, up until now, a very heavily promoted alliance with Fujitsu. In the area of BPM, Fujitsu would resell Software AG’s service bus and Software AG would resell Fujitsu’s BPM. BPM also happens to be one of the highlights of the webMethods acquisition.
One of the challenges that will be before Software AG, and I think an indicator as to whether they are successfully getting the message out to their customers, is how they handle this transition with BPM. Obviously, having an internal product is going to be a lot more attractive than having to partner for it. In fact, Software AG’s CEO told me that in a quote. So, it will be interesting to see how they handle that.
Gardner: How about you, Jim Kobielus? Do you think that this is a sales and channel opportunity to reach the Asia-Pacific region through the Fujitsu alliance and take what was a complementary fit in terms of North America and European Union presence for these two companies? Is this a technology play for all of the above?
Kobielus: I am not really up on the Fujitsu alliance with Software AG. So, I won’t comment on that. It’s very much a geographic jigsaw puzzle coming together here. Clearly, Software AG is very big in Europe, and not so much in the U.S., in terms of integration in BPM.
It’s pretty clear that from a geographic standpoint it’s very complementary. Actually, it’s more complementary from a product standpoint than many have been there willing to give it credit for. Software AG, as you’ve indicated, Dana, is very strong on legacy modernization of the whole mainframe-based setup products for development, databases, and so forth.
WebMethods is very strong on integration, BPM, and the whole SOA stack registries. There is some redundancy with Software AG’s products, such as the whole Crossvision Suite, but I think that from a technological standpoint webMethods is stronger on BPM, the repository, and all of those SOA components than the company that’s acquiring it.
There definitely are a lot of synergies there. Also, webMethods is a bit more visionary than Software AG on the SOA front and has been for quite a while. In fact, webMethods almost coined the term "Web services" back in the late 1990s, and they had a pre-SOAP implementation or a protocol that presaged or foreshadowed SOAP and the whole WS suite that came along. I think webMethods is still a more dynamic company than Software AG in a variety of ways.
Gardner: Let me just pause you there for a second. So, you’re saying that webMethods is ahead of its time, and Software AG might be behind the times, and so together they are going to be on time?
Kobielus: That's right. Software AG is a little bit stodgy and maybe that has to do with its national background. The whole German-versus-American alliance thing is kind of interesting. So, it’s ironic that a big German and a smaller American company are hooking up right now and trying to make a real go of it on SOA.
Another big German and another American company are divorcing -- DaimlerChrysler, of course. They want to get rid of the German stockholders of DaimlerChrysler, who want to jettison the Chrysler side of it and send it packing its bags back to Detroit. They cited the cultural difference, the Germans did. It didn’t work out.
Gardner: Just as a quick aside, it seems that you can pick up Chrysler for $4.5 billion. That seems like a small change for such a big company. If I had a few more bucks, I might consider it.
Garone: Based on the last Chrysler car I owned, I don’t think it’s a cultural issue.
Gardner: You could sell the bricks in the factory and Chrysler would make that money back.
Kobielus: I was reading in one of the articles in the press that Software AG and webMethods cited a cultural match, and that's why it’s a good synergistic deal for those guys. We’ll wait and see.
Gardner: Just the fact that you bring it up means it’s probably somewhat different, right? Let’s go to Todd Biske. Todd, I really enjoy your blog. I think you have a view of SOA that’s much more pragmatic and practical than some of us tea-leaf readers. You tend to eschew the products and look more to the process and the issue of changing the way people behave. Does this merger and acquisition mean anything to you?
Biske: I always like to follow what's going on. The interesting thing that only time will tell is what you’ve got filling the technology gap. We’ve seen a lot of the recent mergers, even just webMethod acquiring and Infravio for the registry/repository and governance solutions, fill the gap.
Clearly, this isn’t a case of filling a technology gap. It's more about geographic issues. But the question from an end user point of view is, when you combine two medium-sized companies, will you get a new big player or will you just get another medium-sized company, maybe like DaimlerChrysler, and the message just gets kind of watered down for both?
I don’t know whether this acquisition will really make a lot of large enterprises see them in a different light or not, when they’re comparing them against the likes of IBM or Oracle. It certainly creates a potential to do so, and that increased customer base can go a long, long way. We’ll see where we windup with it.
Gardner: Your point is well taken. I see this as kind of a risky activity and I agree that this is one-plus-one-equals-two, or one-plus-one-equals-three. And hopefully now, one plus one plus equals 1.3 or 1.5.
In a sense, the whole SOA notion might be affected by this, because if these companies don’t succeed, and they can’t make a multiplier effect, they can’t show that the whole is greater than sum of the parts. You'd have to ask yourself why two companies that are focusing more and more of their products and processes and approaches on SOA couldn’t pull their companies together.
A failure could happen for a number of reasons. It could be culture, but gee ... SOA has to do with culture. Or it could be geography, and gee ... SOA is supposed to be appealing to multinational companies. And, it could be technology, but gosh ... I hope not, because the SOA technology is suppose to allow for mixing, matching, and elevating to a services level of assets, and data resources, and then to bring the people and process together around that.
Does anyone else share my view that this has a somewhat high level of risk, in that, if doesn’t succeed, it could besmirch SOA in general?
McKendrick: I don’t think it’s going to have a huge impact, at least initially, on either besmirching SOA or advancing SOA. It’s a great metaphor. Have you folks seen the movie, "The Pursuit of Happyness," with Will Smith? I’ve spoken with Software AG on a number of occasions over the past three years. When I look at them, I think of the young Chris Gardner out there trying to sell these bone density scanners to hospitals and doctors. He said in the movie that these scanners are slightly better than X-Rays, but cost three times as much.
That kind of reminds me of Software AG. Software AG has been working very hard over the years to try to sell their products. They had Adabas, EntireX, Tamino, and Bolero. They've been really working hard trying to push these products, which maybe are slightly better than other products in the market out there. I’m not sure if they’re priced three times as high, but they have to work hard, and they just haven't quite risen to that level.
Maybe buying webMethods will give them that final break -- the internship at Dean Witter that Chris Gardner had in the movie. This is their breakthrough into the market.
Also Software AG's focus has always been the legacy market. That's what they have been good at. They bought Sabratec a couple of years ago, which provided very good legacy integration tools for iSeries, AS400 mainframes and that’s always been their focus.
webMethods has played in this integration and legacy market as well. This is a huge, untapped frontier -- the legacy integration side of SOA. There are hundreds of thousands of legacy systems that have yet to be leveraged and exposed. In the long run, there is a lot of potential for Software AG to be well positioned.
Gardner: Well, there are a number of companies that are focusing on legacy. IBM is trying to cover its flank in terms of, "If anybody is going to put the mainframe out of business, it’s going to be us." So, there is certainly a lot of business, and perhaps even more so in Europe and in the type of customers that Software AG has.
I want to throw the question out again. Does anyone want to share my perception that this is a risky merger, given the geography, the culture, and the fact that the SOA is in a sense on trial?
Baer: One thing struck me about both companies, which I think also sort of ups the level of risk. Both companies have been going to their own form of legacy migration. Software AG is obvious, but webMethods is another clear case in point. WebMethods initially was a B2B company, and then it bought Active Software for $1.3 billion, and that was suppose to be webMethods’ future. Unfortunately, they bought an EAI company, just as the EAI market peaked. So, in that post-2000 era, or post-Y2K, where SOA started to emerge, they start to seem a bit of a legacy player.
Over the last five years, they’ve been essentially reinventing themselves from EAI to SOA. If there's any risk here, it’s that maybe webMethods is a company that's a lot more open to change, because it had no choice. It doesn't have the cash cushion of Software AG, but you’re talking about two companies that are trying to undergo transition. That ups the risk factor. On the other hand, it might also up the motivation, as long as Software AG’s cash cushion doesn’t make them both too complacent and, as you say, Dana, the cultural differences don’t get in the way. Those are some very big "ifs."
Garone: I tend to agree with Tony, although I think it has to be put into context of what webMethods has gone through and continues to go through. I don’t think it’s unusual amongst vendors in the EAI space. If you look at the collection of those vendors, webMethods has done a really good job, relatively speaking, and they have a ways to go as they all do.
The platform vendors have had that issue, too. IBM had to move each product toward a more SOA-centric model and has also done a very good job. The point is, I don’t think that’s particularly unusual. There is risk here, culturally and technologically, but I really don’t see this risk as being major enough to influence the adoption of SOA or the SOA space in general.
Gardner: Okay, fair enough.
Kobielus: I find it risky from Software AG’s standpoint. They’re acquiring another vendor whose own customers are not avidly acquiring their new product. What I mean by that is, back in 2002, webMethods had license revenues of about $120 million, and it’s dropped. Last year, it was $84 or $85 million in software license revenues. This doesn’t sound like a healthy software vendor, and, to some degree, it sounds like webMethods' own customers regard them as being a legacy vendor, away from which they’re trying to migrate. That’s just the surface impression I get.
Biske: I don’t think it’s going to impact adoption of SOA or cast that all in a negative light. Interestingly, looking at the other risk to webMethods and to Software AG, how would we’d be perceiving this, if it was in the reverse direction with webMethods acquiring Software AG or even if it was presented as a merger of equals, rather than an acquisition? The fact that you’ve got the German company acquiring the U.S. company, what does that mean for the existing U.S. customers of webMethods, and how are they going to perceive this, because there are some cultural issues that have made it difficult for Software AG to gain ground in the U.S. market.
Garone: That’s an interesting point. I really can’t address the issue of whether this is financially feasible or not, but my first reaction was, "Why isn't this in the other direction?" I perceive webMethods as being better positioned and in a better business position generally than Software AG is.
Gardner: Well, they have certainly shown their interest in expansion, but I don’t think their cash position would have allowed this.
Garone: Right, that’s probably true.
Gardner: So, the desire might have been there, but not the means, right? Now, what about the point about Infravio and the registry/repository? We heard quite a bit from Miko about governance and policy, running an IT organization, and perhaps even a larger take on the whole management of business in general. It was a very visionary discussion we had, and yet Software AG has its own repository.
I frankly don’t know enough about them to put them side by side and pick a winner, but it seems that if Infravio and governance was going to be the tail that wagged the webMethods’ dog, and that this acquisition may show you a little different future for the role of registry and repository. Any thoughts on that issue?
Baer: It depends on who is going to be driving the agenda there. An early indicator is that Software AG has said that they want to keep webMethods’ management in place. That’s kind of interesting, because usually a CEO of an acquired company exits fairly tactfully, if it’s a friendly takeover. We’ll approach the interesting inflection point about 8 to 12 months down the pike, when we see who's really driving the SOA strategy at the combined company. That’s basically going to be the telling point.
Gardner: Okay, thanks, Tony.
Garone: I think that’s correct. The real pessimists out there -- I’m not sure I’m one of them -- would look at this and say there’s no doubt that webMethods is going to drive the SOA strategy. Software AG, in terms of revenue, is highly reliant on Adabas maintenance at this point and it's going to continue that way until it figures out how to leverage what it got via the acquisition of webMethods in the SOA space. I’m not quite sure I’m there, but there are some elements to that that may ring true.
Gardner: Yeah, this smacks of a good sales and channel match-up, and they might run webMethods as a subsidiary for some time. Then there's also this balance-sheet issue, where Software AG has recurring revenue. It’s got an old cash cow to continue to milk, and that gives webMethods an opportunity to be funded and financed -- without the vagaries of a quarterly report to Wall Street -- to pursue the larger brass ring here, which is SOA.
Kobielus: Dana, I’ll make a one last point there. I agree with that with what you just said. Software AG is a cash cow in the same way, for example, SAP is living off the substantial legacy of a very well-entrenched set of products. My first reaction to the webMethods acquisition was how they finally put webMethods out of its misery. When I say misery, how long has it been? WebMethods is about 11 or 12 years old now, and it seems that for most of their history they have been in some financial trouble or shakiness. It’s just been one thing after another, and it’s like they don’t get a break.
Now, they seem to have a corporate parent that has a comfort pillow for them, some money to fund ongoing development, diversification, and so forth. Software AG pulled webMethods out of their misery and has given them a new lease on life.
Gardner: Thanks, Jim. Yeah, maybe then make them the R&D department in a sense, right? Okay, a final word on this issue to Joe McKendrick. Joe, this relates somewhat to our discussions from the past about best-of-breed versus integrated-stack-and-suite. Clearly, these companies think that bigger is better and more is better. Does this change your thinking on the best-of-breed versus integrated-suite issue at all?
McKendrick: Well, as we discussed in a previous podcast, the whole notion of an SOA suite runs counter to the SOA philosophy. SOA is especially about loosely coupling, and it doesn’t matter where the applications or the system resides. SOA should be independent of all that, and the idea of an SOA suite runs counter to that thinking. Nevertheless, we see lot of companies glomming onto each other, a lot of gelling taking place. This Software AG-webMethods merger is an example. Progress Software has been very astute in assembling a collection of companies that deal with different aspects of SOA. They want to compete with Oracles, and we saw that just recently with JBoss.
Gardner: SOA Software?
McKendrick: Yeah, right. SOA Software and JBoss. Their goal, their intention is to compete against these bigger guys, while servicing the smaller business market, of course.
Gardner: More of an ecology approach to how to bulk up.
McKendrick: Yeah, we’re going to see more of these alliances, more of these acquisitions and mergers.
On Web 2.0 and SOA ...
Gardner: Let’s move on to our second topic, which is this notion of Web 2.0 and SOA. Now, Web 2.0, of course, can be defined many ways in the market. Some people look at it as simply a rich Internet application interface approach. Others focus on the collaborative social networking aspects of it. Yet others look at Web 2.0 as simply going from an HTML and text page-driven Web to more of a process and semantic Web.
So, let’s just leave the Web 2.0 definition off the table and look at the issue of any of these new activities, whether it’s social networking or rich Internet application interfaces or whether it’s taking advantage of more semantics and BPEL as a process relating to Web activities instead of just as a publishing medium.
Let’s just say, "All of the above" for defining Web 2.0 and how this relates to SOA. I want to go first to Jim Kobielus, because in some emails this week you had some interesting thoughts. We’ve seen a few companies say, "Let’s leverage Web 2.0." We’ve seen Intel come out and say, "We’re going to corral a number of 'open-source' Web 2.0 functions." We’ve seen Cisco get involved with Web 2.0. We’ve seen BEA just announce an embrace of Web 2.0. Even IBM is tinkering with this, I’m sure.
So, there is something there, but let’s focus on this collaborative aspect and particularly in terms of governance. Annrai O’Toole at Cape Clear mentioned this to me probably about nine months ago that he looked at governance and at Web 2.0 and thought, "Gee, maybe wikis would be a good concept for how people manage their services." They could say, "I think the policy should be this, and I’m going to use it in this way, and you can pick and choose."
It's sort of an open source, open collaboration approach to policy and use of services and their agreements. I suppose provisioning rules would come about. You said, Jim, this is kind of a scary concept, that wikis seem to be anti-governance and that it could be a collaboration with no structure. Tell us a little bit about why you’re concerned?
Kobielus: Well, when I think of governance, like everybody I think of the capital "G," like Government, but governance has a broader concern. You often think about crack-the-whip, controls, and setting controls on how people interact and how policies are created? When I think about wikis, I think of the exact opposite. There are no controls. It’s basically a shared space to which everybody can post, everybody can overwrite, and everybody can erase everybody else’s comments.
Gardner: The wisdom of the crowd, right?
Kobielus: Well, okay, that’s a religious faith. Wiki seems like the wild, wild West. It’s a free-for-all as collaboration. That’s great. It’s definitely got a very valid role in many environments, like open-source initiatives where they are very peer oriented. Everybody is an equal, even-steven, participant. There is a high emphasis on collaboration, design, reciprocity, and all of that. So, when I think about the whole SOA governance space, both design-time governance and run-time governance, I think of wiki as in the design-time governance side, where you have teams of designers or business analysts and IT people sitting around the virtual table, trying to hash out policies.
Kobielus: Requirements, policies, data designs, data hierarchies like with their master data management environment. Quite often these are creative processes involving teams of smart people who sit around a virtual table and hash out the overall design approach. Wikis and the whole Web 2.0 repertoire of collaborative tools can be very valuable in this upfront design, modeling, simulation, and shoot-the-breeze aspects that are critically necessary for design time. But runtime SOA governance really depends on clear-cut policies, designs, data definitions, and so forth that have been handed down by the policy gurus, and now are governing ongoing operations without ambiguity.
In that case, you don’t necessarily want any Joe Blow to be able to overwrite the policies and the business rules that are guiding the ongoing monitoring, management control, or security of your SOA.
Gardner: Yes. You said that they needed adult supervision, but I didn’t think that this would be open to anybody. I thought this would be open to the people who have impact, the architects and the line-of-business people perhaps. You're not going to open this up to anybody. There would be a directory and an provisioning, so that only those most close would have access.
Let’s go to the real world. Todd Biske, does it make sense to you? Should we be collaborating among the right people with the right access and privileges in how SOA governance is improved over time?
Biske: I don’t know that you really want a wiki-style collaboration for governance. I tend to agree with Jim that you can’t just open it up to the masses, and even if you look at collaborative environments, whether it’s the large open-source projects, or something like Wikipedia, there's some hierarchy that eventually was put in place, where certain people were allowed to do commits or were designated as senior editors.
So, you always wind up with some form of governance structure around that. The area where I think wikis are going to be important in the SOA space is in the service management lifecycle or service development lifecycle. You got companies that have to move to a service-provider model, whether it’s internally to internal consumers or externally. I have talked a lot about this in my blog.
If we compare that to traditional product management, for a long time it was really just one-way communication. The product marketers went out and said, "Here’s our product. Here are its features. Go and use it." They pushed it out to the market place, and the only response they got back was did people buy the product or not.
Over time, they recognized the need for much more collaboration with their end consumers on how to evolve that product, whether it was the formation of customer advisory boards or even leveraging the Internet and some of the technologies to establish a community around those products. The same thing can apply when adopting SOA.
If I am providing a service out to the rest of the enterprise, I am going to be interested in what the consumers of that have to say. If I am not listening to them, not establishing that bi-directional communication, eventually they are going to go somewhere else or they are going to build it on their own and put that redundancy back into the organization, which is the opposite of what we are trying to achieve.
Gardner: Okay. So social networking has a value here, but you wouldn’t want it necessarily hardwired into the way in which the technology actually operates?
Gardner: Okay, I can buy that. Does anyone else have any thoughts on this notion of wikis and collaboration as applied to SOA governance?
Garone: I don’t really have a lot to add. The two guys who just talked gave a great view of this particular question, and I agree with virtually all of it. After a while, it becomes something that a few key contributors, people who actually have the power, control, and knowledge, would be part of. I waxed philosophical in my head and asked, "Well, is it then still a wiki or is it in fact a collaborative tool among a set of decision-makers who, through policies themselves, are able to make changes or not?"
Gardner: I think you're right. The key word here is collaboration. I believe that IBM is going to be coming out soon with something called Jazz, which is a collaborative application lifecycle management approach. We are seeing more collaboration across different aspects of the whole development-to-deployment environment and we are looking for the tools to do that. Web 2.0 is perhaps stepping up and saying, "We have some tools that can be used in that way." Perhaps, it's not just a matter of dropping a wiki into the process, but something a bit more tailored to an aspect, but somehow availing all the participants of each others' wisdom in the process.
Kobielus: It’s like an open source project. You have a broad range of contributors, but only a handful of committers who can actually commit changes to the underlying code base. So, you might have a wiki that has potentially 3,000 different contributors, but ultimately there might be a moderator or two whose job it is to periodically weed out the nonsense, and crack the wiki whip to make sure that what’s actually been posted reflects the wisdom of the crowd of 3,000 people and not necessarily the vandalism of the few who decide to just disrupt the process.
Garone: And that’s a governance model in itself.
Gardner: Yeah, that’s right. It’s governance, and it relates back to what we’ve discussed in trying to find analogies in geo-politics for technology governance. You want the best of both. You want a federated approach, where they get grassroots input, but you also need command and control. So, it’s Jefferson and it’s Hamilton, right?
Kobielus: It’s Aaron Burr occasionally too. You’re going to follow the pistols.
Gardner: I heard an interesting analogy the other day. We talked about the chicken and the egg, and somebody said, "What about the rooster?"
Alright, let’s move on. Before we leave with Web 2.0, does anyone else have any inputs about the role of Web 2.0? As I said, it’s a very large subject, and then it evolves into Enterprise 2.0 issues, which have lot to do with software as a service and delivery of service. There is the mash-up notion of creating services and then compositing them, even if not with an application purpose or a process, which is letting people change their interfaces and drag and drop things.
We have seen some information from Google Maps this week that have lent more credence to this. I’ll just throw it out to the crowd, any other beauty tips or predictions for the future about where Web 2.0 and SOA come together or not?
Kobielus: Web 2.0 is really HOA, Human Oriented Architecture. It is pretty much giving human beings the tools to share what’s in their minds, to share their creativity with the big wide world. SOA, Service Oriented Architecture, is about sharing and reusing all matter of resources in a standardized way. HOA, the Web 2.0, is the most critical resource, and the most inexhaustible energy supply is human ingenuity and creativity.
Gardner: That’s like Cosmic 2.0. Woah!
Kobielus: Yeah, I have been known to get cosmic. People who have read my blog realize that I am a total space cadet.
Baer: Jim, I'll give you the award this morning for coining the best buzz words, like "Cracking the wiki whip" and "Human Oriented Architecture."
Gardner: Now, any other thoughts before we leave the Web 2.0 subject area?
McKendrick: This may be just a rumor, but I once heard that there was a company, an enterprise with several architectural teams, and these teams actually met face to face once a year to discuss things. That's just a rumor. I am not sure if it’s true.
Gardner: They had to leave their guns and knives at the door.
McKendrick: Exactly. So, Web 2.0 can only help the situation, help break down some of these walls.
On SOA and the Hype Curve ...
Gardner: Okay, let’s move on to our last subject of the day -- we only have a few more minutes -- but it’s the notion of hype. I just noticed, looking around some of the SOA information that was floating around the Web, we seem to be now in the, past-the-peak of the hype curve on SOA and are apparently, from what they say, approaching the "trough of disillusionment."
I took exception with that. I am not sure we’ve even hyped SOA sufficiently and that we are still ramping up on this one. Does anybody else agree with me that SOA is so large, so long-term, and crosses not into just technology but business in organizing behaviors and even redefining the corporation itself? My point is that we are not hyping SOA enough. Anybody agree or disagree?
Biske: I tend to agree with you that the communication isn’t hitting home and it’s not sinking in. I had a blog I know Joe picked up on at one point that talked about companies that are claiming success with SOA. I pointed out that a lot of these companies are the same ones that claim success with virtually every new technology adoption or business adoption, because their culture is well suited to that. There is still a lot of of companies that just don’t know how to do cultural change. It’s not an easy thing to do.
We hyped SOA a lot from the IT perspective, and a lot of the IT managers certainly may be growing tried of hearing about it, but haven't done anything to actually start that process of cultural change. Is it really adopted by the business side and do they understand what it means and how it can impact our business? If they aren't having those communications, we haven’t really changed anything, and that means they’re still open for that message to continue, and to increase.
Gardner: You are saying that managing change well is a core competency, will be an important aspect of any SOA activity, and perhaps SOA adoption could help companies improve the way that they manage change?
Biske: Absolutely. Back when I was working at an enterprise, I had somebody ask me, "How do I build this service so that it meets the enterprise needs?" And I said, "You don’t. You build it to what you know now, and you understand what your processes are going to need to be to change it in the future? Because it is going to change. Think from a change-first perspective, and how you want to manage that process, rather than stick it out there, not want to have it touch it for 10 years, and have it last forever."
Gardner: Well, not to change this subject, but who else agrees with Todd and me?
Garone: You used an expression earlier, "trough of disillusionment." Those words come easily, because they have been used before. That’s because we go through this cycle every time some disruptive technology comes along. The hype gets really high, and the adoption and the use of the technology lags behind, depending on a variety of factors.
I think the SOA hype is pretty high, but I think that it's difficult to sell to decision-makers due to two factors: 1) the degree to which cultural change needs to take place, and 2) as time has progressed through this decade so far we’ve seen greater caution in IT departments because of shrinking budgets. So, the hype is high, but it needs to be sustained longer with messaging that’s going to be more aligned with business goals, rather than technology.
Gardner: We seem to be in a cheap era when it comes to IT, and ironically it’s coming at a time when the Dow is flirting with a record high, even though it has been a bumpy road in the market for the past couple of months. We are still within a Curt Shilling breaking ball of the record, and companies are enjoying record levels of profit, record growth.
Many of them are sitting on record piles of cash. Capital around the world is still at very cheap level, taxes are at a record low in real terms and are dropping in many countries. If there’s any time to invest in IT for the future, this should be it? And yet we’re not seeing it.
Kobielus: Oh, it’s not inconsistent, Dana, with SOA not succeeding. In fact SOA, the model of SOA practically could be: Do more with less.
Gardner: Yeah, but you've got to spend something to allow for your older systems to be freed up and excise the services. That doesn’t come free.
Biske: One thing you have to be cautious with ... Just as we talked about that things change quickly, a number of businesses got burned in the dot-com boom when stock markets were also very high and revenues were increasing. They increased their IT spending, and then the bottom dropped out of it.
Gardner: But, here it’s 2007. It’s been seven years since this crash.
Baer: But, Dana, probably the major reasons -- and the big difference this time -- is that on the IT side there isn't the same sense of urgency. We don't have this Y2K thing staring us at the face, telling us that we must renovate all those legacy systems that are out there -- either renovate or replace. You don’t have the same drama in the headlines all the time. That’s dropped the sense of urgency.
Combine that with the fact that a lot of organizations felt that they got burned the last time they opened up the purse strings.
That’s probably a large part of the reason why you’re seeing much more deliberate spending. To that extent, it can be a positive force in terms of enforcing some discipline. On the other hand, if you want to do SOA right, do you need to invest upfront to do that planning and architecture? I'm not sure that IT organizations have gotten that message.
Gardner: Perhaps there’s more. We keep going back to the crash, but after the crash, we had a series of corporate scandals and meltdowns that really couldn’t be blamed on hyping IT. They had to do a lot more with malfeasance and neglect. We also had a period where we saw new laws and a different compliance atmosphere.
So it could be that companies are being run more by the accountants -- of, for, and by the accountants -- and therefore the vision around IT is not getting through to them, and the purse strings are not opening up. Is that possible?
Koblielus: You’re pretty much on the mark there. I was talking with one CIO about a year or so ago, after about the first year of Sarbanes-Oxley, and she said that the impact of SOX translates to shutting down IT for about 90 days out of the year, just so that they could just account for their tracks over the previous three quarters.
Gardner: Does anyone else concur that the accountants have run amok, and that the IT guys have very good rationales for spending, but they just can’t get the money?
McKendrick: One effect of the whole compliance scenario was that it gave vendors another hype factor. I'm going to try another buzz word. How about Hype-Oriented Architecture? HOA. Using Jim’s HOA for another purpose.
Kobielus: It’s better to have hype-oriented accounting.
McKendrick: Hype-oriented accounting? I think the whole compliance thing gave a boost to the IT industry in the early 2000s. What do we call this decade anyway, the 2000s?
Gardner: The oughts.
McKendrick: It gave the whole industry a boost at a time when things were kind of down with the IT recession. The whole compliance scenario helped business intelligence and the data-environment vendors who directly addressed the flow of financial information.
Gardner: I’d like to conduct an experiment. I think we should take an accountant out to lunch. Anyone who knows an accountant, take them out to lunch and tell them how great IT is and what SOA can do in terms of long-term efficiency and lower total costs. Bring in some of the other mega trends, such as software as a service, virtualization, and data master management. It behooves us all to educate the accounts on why IT is important, because I think they are suffering from a lack of understanding.
Better yet, take a chief financial officer out to lunch and then take the accountants out to lunch. This is the crowd we need to work on. We keep talking about trying to convince the CEO and the CIO, and I think we need to get right down into the bean counters' frontal lobes on SOA.
Biske: Not to move away from the accountants, but one group I hope will keep the hype going is this newly formed SOA Consortium that OMG is sponsoring. It's an advocacy group, not another standards body coming, into the mix. It would be great to start to see a message come from a collection of end-users that are seeing some success with this, rather than being pushed so strongly by the vendor community.
I think it’s a different type of hype. It is one that will be a bit more pragmatic. Hopefully it will continue the pace, and they’ll achieve the goals that they have set out for themselves. I don’t know if they have any accountants in the consortium, but maybe this will help them bring some in.
Gardner: Well, we'll invite them and try to give them a free membership. They should cotton to that, right?
McKendrick: Often, it’s the stuff going on in the consumer space that begins to leach into the enterprise. Any excitement going on in the consumer space, eventually translates into excitement within the walls of the corporation about a certain technology. We saw that with the PCs and we saw that with the Internet. If anything is going on out there in the consumer space right now, it is Web 2.0, going back to the Web 2.0 discussion.
Gardner: Oh, we know how profitable that is.
McKendrick: It's where the excitement is in the corporation that begins to drive the investment. To paraphrase Wall Street's Gordon Gecko, hype is good.
Gardner: Greed was good in the 1980s -- hype is good in "the oughts."
McKendrick: Because it raises that level of excitement, and that’s why you need to get the attention of the bean counters, the CIOs, and the CEOs, most importantly.
Gardner: Well, here’s the message. Take your hype to your accountants and your CFOs and then make them join the SOA Consortium. I am always tempted at the signoff period of our discussion to take a cue from the Car Talk guys and say, "You’ve wasted another completely good hour," but I am not going to do it
Koblielus: And don't drive like my brother
Gardner: And don’t implement your IT like my brother. We have been joined here once again on our SOA Insights Edition by Steve Garone. Thanks, Steve.
Garone: Thank you Dana. It has been a pleasure.
Gardner: Joe McKendrick.
McKendrick: Thanks, Dana. It is good to be here.
Gardner: Jim Kobielus.
Kobielus: Another pleasurable morning.
Gardner: Tony Baer.
Baer: Another hour not wasted.
Gardner: Our guest -- please come back again Todd; we enjoyed having you -- Todd Biske.
Biske: Thanks, this is a lot of fun. I hope to be back.
Gardner: This is Dana Gardner, principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions. You have been listening to Volume 16 of BriefingsDirect, SOA Insights Edition. Thanks, and come back again next time.
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Transcript of Dana Gardner’s BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition, Vol. 16. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2007. All rights reserved.