When Anne Thomas Manes declared SOA dead last January, the enterprise software world stood up and took notice. Manes, a vice president and research director with Burton Group (now with Gartner), declared that SOA and middleware products had worn out their welcome in corporate America, and that SOA as a marketing term was no longer useful. Now, one year later, Manes is still bearish on SOA technology, but very bullish on applying SOA best practices to the cloud.

Jason Bloomberg, managing partner at consulting firm ZapThink, said that SOA has changed from being a market category for software and middleware companies to a set of best practices, and that this shift became prominent in the market towards the end of 2008. He said that SOA was always about best practices, but that the companies hoping to make money on the term had obscured this fact with lots of advertising dollars.

Today, said Bloomberg, these companies have seen their markets dry up, and only a few such companies remain; most SOA companies were acquired by the likes of IBM and Oracle over the past four years. But even IBM has changed its marketing to emphasize SOA consulting, not SOA products, he said.

“What’s really shifted, and this is what Anne was getting at, is a shift away from vendor-driven fake architecture projects where you say you want to do SOA, you buy from Oracle or IBM, they install it and you wonder where the SOA went,” said Bloomberg.

“Budgets were tight last year, and that helped organizations resist spending money on software to solve the problem. There is now a focus on true architecture to leverage existing infrastructure.”

ZapThink used to offer SOA-specific advice, and it even ranked SOA tools in the company newsletter. Bloomberg said that such work is no longer a part of the ZapThink business model, which is now focused on training and consulting rather than purchasing advice.

From SOA to the cloud
Now that SOA has lost its appeal as a buzzword, many companies are pushing their middleware products into the cloud. “Vendors had to do something to convince people to buy,” said Manes. “They basically took everything they had for SOA and repackaged it to say, ‘This is cloud stuff.’ But you can’t do cloud computing very effectively at all if you’re not also using service-oriented principles.

“The business guys aren’t interested in investing in this abstract architecture concept. But at the same time, you have to do it or your systems are going to remain in this quagmire they’ve been in.”