OOPSLA’07: The Role of Objects in a Service-Obsessed World

At OOPSLA, SOA was the subject of many panels, one of them being entitled “The Role of Objects in a Service-Obsessed World”. The panel moderator, John Tibbetts started out by stating that SOA is the worst case of vendor instigated hysteria he has ever seen. Furthermore, he pointed out that he has never seen any architecture in Service Oriented Architecture, and that in SOA there is only marketecture. This was a statement that has been repeated many times on this conference, and that I very much agree to.

Furthermore, Tibbetts went on to describe what he called a marketecture diagram (often used by commercial software vendors, as opposed to an architecture diagram), which have the characteristics of including boxes for virtues (for instance responsiveness), people, and where adjacent blocks may contain products
with overlapping responsibilities. The latter happen of course when the vendor’s product suite has such overlapping products. There is nothing wrong with marketecture diagrames, they may be used to position products. However, they should not be mistaken with architecture diagrams. As a summary, we should get rid of the A in SOA because there is no architecture there.

Another panelist, Jeroen van Tyn, shared his experience on failed SOA projects and pointed out that he has yet to see a SA being driven by the business. Au contraire, SOA is yet another thing that the technology people are trying to sell to the business. Furthermore, he referred to a survey that showed that 70% of the web services out there are being used within the same application, and the big question is of course why the heck we are doing that! He then went on to state that we need to analyze business needs to find a technical solutions, not saying that we have these services and trying to find a business problem to fit into it.

Ward Cunningham was also on the panel, pointing out that in a world of services automated testing across the entire lifecycle of services is a key success factor. In my opinion this is not only a very important factor, it is also one of the most challenging ones. How can we do effective testing across application and organizational bounderies? Furthermore, he pointed out that when you arrive at a large number of services versioning becomes very important. When you have 25 companies exchanging services, how do you make them move at the same time?

Although not on the panel, Dave Thomas contributed to the discussion with (as always) passionate and colourful statements, one of them being that SOA exists only because it is a game that vendors play as a way to control their customers.

Various statements given during the debate:

  • SOA needs to be business driven. (Hm, I seem to recall hearing this before…)
  • SOA has nothing to do with tools
  • SOA does not make change management go away
  • SOA is not a technical issue, it is a business stands
  • BPM is out. (Eh, was it ever in…?)