Tag Archives: point

SOA Arrogance is Dead

I spoke at the Burton Group Catalyst conference in the SOA Track immediately after Anne and made the following point..

First and foremost, the most stupid and ignorant reading of “SOA is DEAD” is that the perspective of SOA is no longer needed in the Enterprise. This point of view is stupid, particularly when SOA is so important for mash-ups, Cloud Computing, SaaS, PaaS, BSM, IT Governance, Portfolio management and most modern IT practices.

The problem of Enterprise IT Complexity (and Entropy) *DOES* need to be solved. SOA is one of many key architectural perspectives that can make this happen.

Everything is a service (SOA) is an incredibly powerful view.

But within appropriate bounds, everything can also be appropriately viewed as a Process, an Event, an Object, a database table, or other abstraction.

The idea that an enterprise architect could become so focused on “one architecture to rule them all” is as preposterous as “one vendor to rule them all”.


Like the unfortunate cat in this photo, the Enterprise Architect’s head “GROED TOO FASS”… SOA simply cannot be applied to all things. Conceptually it works. You can walk around and talk about how everything in the universe is a service. It’s actually a fun exercise. But to try to implement Enterprise IT that way, by occluding and dominating everyone else’s world view is simply ineffective.

We all know that the “tipping point” has been reached with IT, and that just about everyone is dissatisfied with it. SOA is an essential ingredient in the fix, but instead of insisting on an “Atkins” diet that consists only of meat (services), why not have a healthy and balanced diet that includes vegetables (processes), whole grains (objects), healthy oils and fats (events) and some sugars like fruit (database tables). While it may be unfair to compare SOA to a fad diet, the concept of a healthy enterprise never goes out of style.

Everyone’s point of view is needed, and although IT ends up looking very “simple” if you try to take a simplified view of IT and force it upon everyone. Unfortunately, such a simple monolithic view, even if it is as powerful as SOA will fail.

Enterprise Architects are smart people. We should all be able to incorporate and understand the validity of multiple viewpoints at the same time. The service oriented viewpoint is the key perspective with which IT can reorganize itself, but it should not be force fit over business people who think in processes or developers who think in objects or data gurus who think in tables.

We have gone from integration of systems, which is the rather mundane task of getting machines to interoperate, to the sophisticated task of integrating world views, and even more importantly, intentions. The Enterprise is made up of many world views and many different intentions. These need to be reconciled, but to run roughshod over the perspectives and intentions of others is simply not an adoption best practice.

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What I learned from Woz

Miko and Woz

So I had the great benefit of having breakfast with Steve Wozniak, keynote speaker at our Innovation World conference in Miami Florida, then of course listening to him speak.

This was a great occasion as I have long been a fan of Apple Computer (and an occasional fan of Apple Inc., but that’s a different story). Although I learned computing on the Atari 400 computer (yes with the cheezy keyboard), this 6502 processor based wonder owed a lot to the origins of the home computer and yes to Steve Wozniak, designer of this and many other computers.

Woz talked about how he designed the first “One player version of Pong” using 44 chips (or some variant of that, my memory fails me) which was of course the original and venerable “breakout” game, based on a contract negotiated by none other that Steve Jobs, the other Apple Computer cofounder and also Silicon Valley legend.

The thing that fascinated me about what Steve Wozniak kept emphasizing is how innovation comes out of “lean” environments–how trying to design systems with the fewest number of chips makes them mass production ready and how changing the world relies on making really lean systems design. This is really innovation for the age of recession 101.

It’s interesting because people talk about lowercase “i” innovation and capital “I” innovation. Now lowercase “i” innovation includes such ideas as Kaizen, or Continuous Process Improvement. This is the idea that small incremental improvements can lead to serious transformation. The company that is often heralded for this approach is Toyota. The thing that is fascinating about this is how Toyota came up with the Prius, which actually disrupted the market in a manner that most people expect to see from Capital “I” innovators–or the kind of market disruption that you typically get from silicon valley startup companies like Tesla Motors, Better Place, and other such companies.

If you look at nature, it’s almost infinitely inventive–and it uses energy (pretty much solar energy other than those wierd geothermal vent worms) and converts it into structures of many many types. Nice job evolution.

But if you really look at what’s happening in evolution, yes there are quantum leaps such as the first organism to fly (which they say might have been archaeopteryx) or the first animal to crawl up onto land and breathe air… but the interesting thing about them is that the environment was not being kind to these animals as they underwent their transformations. The environment was being cruel to them, squeezing them. They innovated because they had to. Neccesity is the mother of invention. Using fewer chips means you can manufacture at volume. Breathing air means you can get out of the shrinking pond. Flying means you wont be eaten by the savage predators.

Sounds like a bit of a grim view of it, but when people talk about “evolutionary steps” they really are missing a point, they think evolutionary is incremental to the point where you dont even ever get a great leap forward–but you do! There is a point at which lowercase innovation becomes capital letter innovation! This would explain how something as simple as Continuous Process Innovation at Toyota would end up generating a completely disruptive product such as the Toyota Prius (I drive a prius and love it, thank you very much).

So I learned a lot from talking to and listening to Steve Wozniak, and owe a debt of gratitude to him for such deep insights. Hopefully i’m not doing anything bad by sharing his picture with you here on my blog, I’m just happy to have done so…

My 2 cents,

PS, the person taking the picture is my boss, Dr. Peter Kuerpick who runs R&D at Software AG, and the person off to Steve Wozniak’s right is Karl-Heinz Streibich, the CEO of Software AG. Pictured in the background of the picture is Ivo Totev Chief Marketing Office who was nice enough to invite me to this breakfast…

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