Confusion about SOA and lack of skills hinder local uptake

Survey: 13% of respondents wanted to implement SOA in their organisations, but limitations on resources and lack of knowledge were holding them back

Uptake of service-oriented architecture in New Zealand is being constrained by a lack of skilled staff, says Deloitte’s local consulting senior manager, James Clarke.

“We’re short of skills in New Zealand and you don’t go re-architecting your landscape without a good set of technical and project-management people,” says Clarke.

A survey, jointly conducted by Deloitte and Computerworld, recently showed that 13% of respondents wanted to implement SOA in their organisations, but limitations on resources and lack of knowledge were holding them back.

A similar proportion, 15%, were moving to or implementing SOA right now, and 37% of respondents said they’d “heard about” SOA, while the remaining 28% weren’t considering it for the short- to medium-term.

Just 6% had already implemented it, and of that 6%, a third of users were happy with the output and the rest were still waiting to reap the rewards.

Clarke says the level of uptake and awareness of SOA revealed by the survey is less than in some other countries, which means our much-vaunted status as early adopters of technology doesn’t apply in SOA’s case.

“We’re often early adopters of personal technology, but we typically under-invest in productivity, and SOA is productivity-focused.”

Many organisations, especially mature ones, are more likely to be focused on getting their present applications stable and running effectively. “And an SOA seems a long way off when you’re grappling with a large ERP implementation or getting your IT landscape under control.”

However, that’s likely to change in the next five years or so, as more applications that have built-in SOA components become available.

“As new systems are implemented, they’ll tend to be service-based.”

Some vendors, notably makers of large ERP systems, are moving towards a service-oriented approach, he notes.

While it’s hard to be certain about how pervasive SOA will be at any point in the future, “it will be an accepted and robust way of implementing new functionality,” says Clarke.

But, right now, many IT professionals probably view SOA as something they may implement in the future, he says. “It’s not something they feel they need to do now.”

The results concerning one question were also “a bit disappointing”, says Clarke, with just 59% of respondents correctly answering: “What is SOA?”

The question had five options as answers and so “wasn’t totally obvious”, but it shows there is confusion about what SOA actually is, he says.

“There is a bit of confusion between use of the web, in web-service architecture, and SOA, which is focused on your own internal architecture.”

The option that 59% of respondents correctly picked was: “SOA is an enterprise-wide architectural style which involves remotely invoked and shared services.” Another 23% picked: “SOA is an enterprise-wide architectural style which utilises web services.”

The answer to another knowledge-based question, “A true SOA approach is incompatible with a commercial, off-the-shelf software landscape — true or false?” got a better result, with 85% of respondents correctly saying it was false.

“Vendors will be happy with that,” says Clarke. “There’s a real risk [for them] in the view that SOA has to be deliberately customised.”

Something that came through clearly in the survey, despite the confusion concerning what SOA is, was that it is beneficial from a business point of view, he says.

“The results show people are looking for the end-benefits and aren’t being lured into new toys.”

The overall results show “people understand that it’s not just about taking the latest sexy thing in technology — they want to see some real business benefits.”

The survey, which ran on Computerworld’s website from June 20 to August 3, attracted 289 responses to the first question. A total of 201 respondents finished the survey through to the tenth and final question.

Deloitte is sponsoring a series of research projects through Computerworld. The next subject area is mobile security.

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