February 2009 Archives

Previously on the hit game show, "What's a Cloud?"

Over on RedMonk, I heard a very intriguing quote from James Governor that was buried in video:

"If you think of the post-SOA term, from Nick Gall... Web Oriented Architecture, clearly this is somewhat different from SOA, although there are some patterns common to both of them..... Is the cloud Web-Oriented Operations, or WOO? (We have WOA and WOO)... and what IBM is saying is definitely not WOO, it's business as usual, it's just about flexible delivery of application -- all the stuff that is goodness, all the stuff that Tivoli has been talking about since 1995. That stuff all has value, but it's not Cloud. Cloud involves difference. Business as usual, that's just provisioning service, and automation and virtualization, which is all good, but... if I hear a another person tell me that CLOUD = SOA + VIRTUALIZATION + AUTOMATION, I'm going to ignore them and rubbish the idea as much as I can."

Preaching to the choir here; I left BEA almost a year ago to build out a WOA platform for clouds.

But I'm curious -- as far as I can tell, most clouds really ARE some combination of:

  1. Service Interface (e.g. Amazon Web Services aren't really WOA up close)
  2. Provisioning and Automation of some sort (e.g. images, web applications, multi-tier designs)
  3. Virtualization is admittedly optional, though increasingly common

So, if cloud is different, is the difference really a trend towards WOA, or is this really going to happen? I see two patterns:

One pattern is emerging from the IBM and HPs of the world that have collected a number of shiny baubles in their ERP4IT stacks (Tivoli and OpenView) and invested heavily in SOA and WS-* to painstakingly integrate them (and the pile of IT that has been built on this technology over the past 5+ years)> This pattern indicates that the IT world is cleaving in two, with web architecture on one side, to build the new class of end-user services, and boring old SOA+VIRTUALIZATION+PROVISIONING for the back end.

The other pattern is that the cloud is about Web Architecture end-to-end, using WOA to enable linked data and mashups for the development lifecycle, architecture & operations lifecycle , and end-user-services.

I wouldn't bet on the latter being a fait accompli, as most haven't wrapped their heads around how to make this work. And of course, there's a lot of inertia. There are bright spots: notice one of those links comes from IBM Rational's Jazz / OSLC initiative - they seem to "get the Web" for enabling interoperable software delivery lifecycle tools. But the problem is end-to-end. At some point the industry has to recognize that IT is becoming complicated enough that planning for product-line-style reuse is of isolated value, and designing for serendipity and applying knowledge representation principles at global scale are legitimate ways out of this mess.

A lot will depend how this changes the cost and user experience of the ball-of-IT-mud (and whether that can be effectively communicated to those who don't follow the latest architecture acronyms).

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