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Service Oriented Architecture is primarily about business and not technology.

Mon 26 October 2009

Bollocks! category: architecture tags: soa

There's quite a few times I've heard / read a gross oversimplification of architecture in reference to business and technology. And while I believe I understand the 'essential cause' which drives such a simplification, I've often felt quite frustrated at the resultant impression thats provided by such a simplification. In many ways and forms, it boils down to the statement (not exactly the same since I'm not quoting directly), quite similar to the one below :

Service Oriented Architecture is primarily about business and not technology

This also reflected in the recent SOA Manifesto which states as its very first described value :

Business value over technical strategy

Allow me to straight away start picking some holes into this :

  1. Anything that a business does - whether it is soa, software architecture, building architecture or simple plant and machinery design, to the extent (which is exactly 100%), technology serves the business goals, all technology activities (and non-technology as well) are at the end of the day about achieving business objectives and therefore about business. So why single out architecture? And even more so why single out SOA?

  2. Architecture is also about business. But its not the same as saying its primarily about business and not so much about technology. For a moment lets step away from Software/Hardware Architecture and look at Building Construction Architecture. The legendary creation of Ayn Rand - Howard Roark, for all his eccentricities and seemingly portrayed egocentric and egotistic behaviour did meet the test of business objectives to the extent of making the residents of his creations extremely satisfied. And at no point would you gather the impression that he in any manner put construction technology to any secondary position to his business context and objectives. At the end of the day thats what architecture is. It is not about making one of business or technology more important than or subservient to other. Its about effectively mapping the two to provide a strong technology solution appropriate to the business needs.

I suspect one of the important causes here is that people have forgotten that the A in SOA stands for architecture, and therefore shorn of architecture, business and technology can be seen to be competing in a non win-win form.

So if SOA stands for Service Oriented Architecture, then I must submit that architecture is the art of getting the two working together. And I am of the opinion that an exercise suggesting one is more important than other is an exercise in a field unrelated to architecture. I suspect many practicing software architects will agree with this. I suspect Ayn Rand wouldn't disagree as well.

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