In the earlier part of this century -- those halcyon days before the bottom fell out of the global economy -- I met a guy named Skip Snow whose job at Citigroup was, as he told me, to "think about governance" for SOA. At the time I remember thinking, man, I'd like to have his job.
To my disappointment, Skip explained to me recently that his position as senior vice president of enterprise architecture for Citicorp (aka, "chief architect for SOA") was less pleasant than sitting in the backyard hammock staring at clouds. I called Skip at the offices of his startup, HIPAA Box, a company he founded to offer secure preservation of data held by health care providers.
[ Early on in the crisis, InfoWorld blogger Bill Snyder wondered: Will the financial meltdown slow IT innovation? ]
At Citicorp, he was fighting the good fight for SOA -- and losing the war. If he and architects at other financial giants had won, says Skip, the meltdown might never have occurred. How can he make such a fantastic claim? Because, he says, SOA would have made massive financial risk across the organization impossible to ignore. And as usual, political rather than technical barriers stood in the way of essential change.
"What we had in the 2003 timeframe was a bunch of guys leading the industry who knew what was required to make SOA work," he said, "but at Citicorp the internal competition didn't allow it."
Such internecine inertia was not exclusive to Citicorp. To deploy an SOA successfully, you need to tease out common-denominator services across the enterprise and have applications share them to avoid duplicate effort and to centralize management. The architects saw the benefit, but what did those within each department have to gain? They were making money hand over fist already and didn't need the distraction. Besides, says Skip, "business unit A and business unit B wanted to maintain their fiefdoms. In fact, compensation models for business managers did not reward enterprise players."
Enterprise software vendors were complicit too, he says. "If you're an IBM or an Oracle or an HP, where's the benefit in having a commodified messaging infrastructure? It wasn't in their interest."
Instead, the big vendors want to lock you into a proprietary stack, even though it's impossible to adopt the same homogeneous stack across a vast organization like Citicorp. So you end up where you started: multiple stacks that communicate with each other only to a limited degree.