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Don't confuse SOA with cloud: Gartner

Future of software industry looking shaky

Business doing service-oriented architecture (SOA) for better IT management shouldn’t assume they will automatically be ready for cloud computing, says a Gartner software analyst.

Speaking about “a new cloud of reality; SOA, compositions and the future of software” Gartner Research vice president and fellow, David Mitchell Smith, says the problem is the term 'service' in cloud and 'service' in SOA are the same word, with different meanings.

“In the world of SOA we talk of services as software, live components and objects (technical things), but in the real world when you talk about service it is outcome based,” Smith said.

“People will say ‘we are doing SOA so we are ready for the cloud’, but the difference between SOA services and the cloud context is huge. With cloud, you pay for the outcome, not the technology. In cloud the service terminology you are focusing on is a relationship between service provider and consumer not technology provider and consumer.”

CIOs shouldn’t assume SOA equals cloud, as “there is a huge leap there”, but Smith says the concepts are related and undertaking SOA is a good thing to prepare for cloud.

He makes the analogy between American football and the direction of the software industry.

“In American football there is a saying that you throw the ball and at the other end you catch the ball – so it’s important to be where you think the ball will land,” he said.

“It’s an analogy to the issues around cloud and SOA. If you are planning around assumptions today and you want to plan for the future you want to know where the future will be which is no small feat.”

In his keynote at this year’s Gartner SOA and software summit in Sydney, Smith said the IT industry is very fashion conscious.

“We want to know where we are going and the cliff is cloud - everyone says they are going to it, but they don't necessarily know what they mean,” he said.

“Cloud computing is the most over-hyped term today and it is not well defined [so] half the problem is getting people on the same page.”

“What is cloud computing? That is the question of this age and we have to get people on the same page. It is a style of computing, not a technology or architecture that delivers IT capabilities as a service to customers using Internet technologies.”

Smith said people might think cloud is a new way of saying the same thing, but “it's more than that”.

“Cloud is all about trust and if you don't trust the provider, you shouldn't be doing it,” he said. “SOA is not the same as cloud.”

“Combining cloud, SOA and events with people leads to innovation like collaborative tasks, event-based composition and multi-tenant services, but people are central to innovation.”

What software practices will make enterprise IT more relevant to business computing? Smith said changing the perception from buying software to buying a service to get something done is key.

“Do people really want to buy software? I would say no,” he said. “People want to buy a service to get something done.”

“Cloud and the new business realities have more of an outcome focus and charges should reflect value, not cost. The future of software is far from assured. Software is not dead, but it’s not looking incredibly healthy as a business model for the long term. It's the outcomes that matter, not the technology.”

Rodney Gedda is Editor of TechWorld Australia. Follow Rodney on Twitter at @rodneygedda. Rodney's e-mail address is rodney_gedda@idg.com.au. Follow TechWorld Australia on Twitter at @Techworld_AU.

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