Is SOA part of the enterprise architecture or does it replace it?

Traditional EA is more about crafting a strategy than implementing a strategy; SOA is more about doing after planning

I spoke during the pre-conference at the IT and Business Alignment Forum held in Vegas this week, co-located with the Enterprise Architecture Conference. I've blogged about this event before; I've been speaking at the darn thing, off and on, for about 10 years, and through three different owners.

Besides the Open Group conference, which is also good, this event is the gathering of the "traditional" enterprise architecture (EA) players, who are all still a bit confused about the role of SOA within their work. Or, better put, is SOA a part of EA or does it replace it?

We've dealt with this question before, and I still believe that SOA is an architectural pattern that is a part of the discipline of EA. EA is more holistic and management-oriented when you consider how it's practiced. SOA seems to have a nice productive role within EA in providing a pattern of architecture that's able to deal with IT assets as services, and provides the ability to create and recreate solutions on top of those services, simply put. Thus, creating an architecture that's built to change.

The difficulty comes in when you consider the practice of SOA within traditional EA shops. They don't seem to be picking up on SOA for the most part, and as long as SOA has been out there.

The issues are pretty clear to me:

  • Traditional EA is more about crafting a strategy than implementing a strategy. SOA is more about doing after planning, but you are indeed doing.
  • Traditional EA is not funded for implementation, just driving strategy. Moreover, many enterprise architects just seem to serve as the resident guru and weld no real political or budgetary power.
  • Traditional EA is leveraging well-defined processes, approaches, and methodologies that in some instances are difficult to map into SOA.

Indeed, one of the hindrances of SOA is the failure of those promoting SOA to correctly align it with the existing EA practices and people. I don't see SOA replacing EA within most organizations, thus it's about education and assimilation. However, I don't see SOA progressing as much as it should be progressing within traditional EA shops. Again, it's people issues that have to be solved, the processes and technology are easy.

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