SOA, is it a fad?

Now that we have nearly finished our first SOA project using Sun Microsystems JCAPS platform we have some hands-on feel of this latest trend. Being our first project it definitely took more time than expected to deliver the solution (apart from busted weekends) when compared to traditional development approaches, especially when looking at the new rapid application development environments such as Netbeans 5.5.

The main advantage we experienced is that by adopting such a solution the end user benefits from a single desktop environment, something that in large organizations can be quite rare in practice. From a technical perspective an SOA solution introduced a standard enterprise platform that can act as the main backbone for application development, transaction management and standard interfacing across multiple heterogeneous backend systems.

Our experience so far has showed that SOA has to be seen as a long term strategic decision which can prove to be quite challenging to show immediate returns and as an approach follows more the economic law of increasing returns. Apart from the fact that such a solution involves a paradigm shift in the software development approach, technical teams have to go through a painstaking baggage of new technologies and thus involves quite a steep learning curve. However once the team is steered towards this new philosophy and the SOA platform starts becoming richer in terms of its penetration through the backend systems and exposed webservices/business processes thats the time one starts to see the returns. Patience is the rule of the game and for sure one cannot judge the investment/return after the initial few applications written using such an approach. Definitely however, SOA as an area is still maturing both in terms of technologies/standards and in terms of software engineering design/approach/project management. Will keep you posted on further developments ...