Eight years ago, the biggest buzzword in enterprise software development wasn’t a word. It was three words: service-oriented architecture. SOA promised a future where enterprise services could be offered to third parties and consumed easily internally. The goal was to turn legacy systems into Web-accessible APIs.
Too bad nobody actually said it like that back then, as it would have saved the enterprise a lot of confusion. While the enterprise was watching the evolution of Web Services standards, along came RESTful Web APIs, which quickly brought the promise of SOA to everyone who’d been waiting.
But what of the SOA companies? Many were acquired, but there are also a few remaining, rebranding and refocusing.
One of those companies is MuleSoft. During the heady days of SOA, MuleSoft was all about its Enterprise Service Bus. But as SOA has fallen out of favor, the company has had to reinvent its value proposition over the past two years.
Ross Mason, founder and VP of product strategy for MuleSoft, said, “What we’ve done is we’ve really hunkered down where our core competency is and found the whole industry is moving in that direction anyway.”
Mason said that MuleSoft focuses heavily on mobile and SaaS integrations, and said that those deals now make up 60% of MuleSoft’s business.
“Why is this different now?” he said. “One, SOA was focused on the wrong thing, which was exposing data out without thinking about how people want to consume that info. The market forces those people to have to think about what they want to get out of that platform. It forces people to think about the user, which didn’t happen in SOA.”
To that end, Mason said MuleSoft now offers API management and governance tools. “Because we’re providing a single unified platform for traditional SOA stuff, then application, and specifically SaaS integration, is a key piece of the platform. The API publishing and management is driving the most interest. Increasingly people are seeing that as a better way forward to loosen up their systems,” said Mason.
Another company focusing more on API management and governance is WSO2. Senaka Fernando, senior technical lead at WSO2, said that his company has grown from thinking of APIs and hosted business services as two different things to considering them to be very similar from a management standpoint.
“We realized that SOA governance and API management are not two separate things,” he said. “They’re a single thing, and there’s a single integration we need to do to make it possible.
“Once it is hosted and you have something that is running, now you can apply policies on it. On the other hand, for the benefit of your employees, you track the info behind those services. All that gets tracked in a registry. Once you’re taking this thing into production, then you’re concerned about ‘Who is using my service?’ We have a product so you can track who’s using the API.”
So while the term “SOA” might be out of date, the ideals of SOA live on in different protocols and under different acronyms.
“I think what’s happened is this force of trends—of SaaS and mobility—are driving a very different way of thinking about infrastructure,” said Mason. “People spent the last four years thinking about reducing cost. Now, they’re starting to think ‘What does my business look like in five to 10 years?’ and that’s controlling the CIO’s buying. Traditional middleware hasn’t caught up yet.”