Should you get your SOA knowledge from SOA vendors?

You need to watch out if something in the world of SOA is free.

JP Morgenthal made a great point in this recent article, highlighting the fact that in many instances SOA vendor training may be inherently flawed.

I saw an announcement this morning by WSO2 that they are offering free SOA Training this summer; this triggered my uh-oh senses. I'm sure that WSO2 means well, but I've noticed a trend in my conversations with individuals who have a predominantly been trained by SOA Vendors to focus too heavily on the implementation design factors and focus too little, or not at all, on a top-down approach. To me, this makes perfect sense, because, and I know this is a contentious statement, architecture cannot be taught to the masses.

The core issue is that when vendors teach SOA, they typically focus on the implementation and the technology, and not the architecture. Why? They don’t make money while you’re thinking about SOA, only when you’re implementing SOA. Thus, the SOA training provided by SOA vendors is going to be implementation-focused.

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Not to pick on WS02, but IBM, Software AG, HP, and other SOA technology vendors play that game as well. In short, providing deep seminars disguised as training, talking more about ESBs and SOA governance technology than how to approach and solve the architectural issues at hand. The technology is part of it, but a small part.

As a result, we now have thousands of “SOA architects” who are really technologists. There is a huge difference. For instance, I consistently encounter those that talk about ESBs as if it’s the architecture, and push particular SOA vendors before any issues are understood about the architecture or problem domain. That’s obviously problematic.

The moral of this story is that if something is free, there is typically a catch. Architecture is something you do, not something you buy. Learn from those that are SOA vendor neutral.