Giving SOA terminology a nip/tuck

January 6th, 2009 by Alex

Do you know what this logo is?  It’s the new Pepsi logo. What does Pepsi have to do with SOA?

To start off 2009 with a bang, Anne Thomas Manes has written a blog post declaring the term “SOA” dead. Like her previous post on the “failures” of SOA, this post is certain to get a lot of attention.

But a careful reading shows Ms. Manes only wants to kill the term SOA, not, of course, the technological movement which it defines and which she asserts is still critically important to improving application development.

I’ve heard this desire to make SOA a dirty word a lot lately, even inside Active Endpoints. And, as a marketing person, I recognize it for what it is: message fatigue from the avant-garde.

Like the marketing guys at Pepsi, the cognoscenti are tired of talking about SOA. They need something new, something exciting, something…effervescent to talk about. It’s not that the term SOA is dead…it’s simply boring, pedestrian.

In a startup company, the biggest marketing danger is thinking that the “world” knows what you’re saying. When you are small, the noise level around you is so high and the competition is so stiff that your message can’t ever get out unless you stick with it. But creative people don’t like repetition. They thrive on the new. So many technology startups fools themselves into thinking that “everyone knows” what they do. And they move on…into obscurity.

Like a startup company, the thought-leaders that truly believe in SOA as a way of doing things are about to abandon the term at the exact moment it becomes a mainstream, accepted way of doing things.Their need for the new — at least new terminology — threatens consolidation of the very movement they championed. (And it risks generating cynicism among thought-leaders who get frustrated by the incomplete adoption of the “latest thing.” It’s a self-fulfilling cycle: how can something be completely adopted if pundits abandon technology before the movement is consolidated?)

Incomplete adoption is possible because the companies contemplating SOA now are the middle and late adopters. They aren’t the early people who conflated an ESB with SOA. Adopters today are not bleeding-edge customers. They let someone else suffer those pangs.

ActiveVOS’s success in 2008 was, in part, because customers aren’t interested in technological debates. Instead, they wanted modern, affordable, all-in-one technology to achieve their business objectives. They don’t “debate” SOA. They simply implement it.

And in a surprising number of cases in 2008, ActiveVOS displaced or was installed alongside the SOA offerings from IBM and Oracle. Why? Because the never-ending need for “newness” in those products…uh, excuse me…”stacks”…makes them indigestible for customers looking to actually achieve something with their application portfolios. Like the pundits, many big competitors of ours keep “revising the logo,” confusing their customers and delaying consolidation of the SOA movement into the mainstream.

So, would a new term help SOA? I don’t think so…it’s like the Pepsi logo. It makes a lot of leading-edge people feel great. (“Wow, isn’t that beauuuutiful?”)  But it unnecessarily confuses large numbers of people who thought they understood what was going on and who had just begun to dip their toes into the SOA water. 

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