Friday, November 16, 2007

Is Microsoft's SOA vision blinkered?

Microsoft risks alienating potential customers of its service-oriented architecture (SOA) solutions by using closed standards and proprietary interfaces, and failing to provide clear product roadmaps, analysts have warned.

Speaking at Microsoft’s annual SOA & Business Process Conference at the end of October, chief architect Donald Ferguson outlined the company’s “Oslo” strategy, which is designed to deliver a unified platform to support the integration of services and application modelling.

Microsoft also announced plans to add SOA functionality to its forthcoming BizTalk Server 6 and .Net Framework 4 last month, while Visual Studio .Net 10 will gain application lifecycle management features. Microsoft said it is working to align metadata repositories across all its middleware products.

The big advantage of using standards-based SOA as a foundation for web-based application and service development is that it creates components that can be reused in different environments and by different vendors. It also allows companies to share web-based services without the requirement for special software translators or integration modules.

One analyst has argued that Microsoft’s SOA approach will offer none of these benefits, and that the company is undermining SOA’s perceived benefits by using closed standards and proprietary interfaces in its products.

“[Microsoft] is not playing ball with anybody else playing the SOA game,” said Ron Schmeltzer, a senior analyst with ZapThink. “The core Microsoft customer base will be excited, as it’s a strong step forward for them, but enterprise architects with a heterogeneous architecture will wait until it’s based on open standards.”

Dwight Davis, a vice president with research company Ovum, pointed out that even according to Microsoft’s own schedule, it will still take another couple of years at least to deliver on Oslo’s promise.

“Oslo represents a step forward in clarifying Microsoft’s plans for service enablement and process-led, model-driven development, but remains very much an aspirational roadmap at this point,” wrote Davis in a research note. “Furthermore, Microsoft risks confusing customers and partners by failing to draw clear lines between its current Oslo vision and the services and model-driven initiatives that have preceded it, including the Dynamic Systems Initiative and Dynamic IT.”

As well as dealing with proprietary standards and confusing vendor roadmaps, IT managers also have to contend with an acute lack of SOA skills among IT professionals. More than half of the companies interviewed for an IBM survey earlier this year said that they had only 25 per cent or less of the skills required to build a functioning SOA.

Respondents said they lacked employees with the ability to bridge the gap between IT and business, and had insufficient experience of strategic mapping and modelling, SOA security and governance, and integration. Eighty per cent said they planned to increase their internal SOA skills within the next 12 months, however, with more than 60 per cent focused on retraining existing staff.


No comments: