WSO2Con 2011: Panel: Cloud and SOA: The good, the bad and the ugly

  • WSO2Con 2011
  • - Sri Lanka
  • 31 Jan, 2012

Comparing SOA and the Cloud

Mr. Malladi noted that when SOA arrived, everyone was excited and attempted transformation. However, he noted, a lot of those attempts failed, and people blamed SOA technology. That has changed as people have come to understand that SOA is a paradigm shift. “Cloud is where SOA was 10 years ago,” Mr. Malladi said. It’s a great idea to offload infrastructure management and resources, but the practical aspects are being missed, such as multi-tenancy and the security of data in the same place. Companies are betting their business on the cloud, but what if they put their data in the cloud and it fails?

Mr. Nathmal observed that there are some fundamental problems whether or not the implementation is an SOA or a cloud deployment. SOA has gone through the checklist of items that need to be there before anyone adopts the stack. One is timeliness and latency, he said. If a user doesn’t get an answer in 2 to 3 seconds, he will not use it. If the cloud can promise low latency, then it makes sense. Similarly, Mr. Nathmal stated that if the cloud can offer the security, performance and scalability, then why not move to the cloud. At the same time, he said, many people are looking at a new class of applications that can be built in the cloud but would be difficult to do on premise. “I think cloud will catch on,” he added.

Mr. Svee pointed out that there are a lot of similarities in how SOA and the cloud have been hyped and implemented. SOA is past the hype, he said, and it has filtered out the riff raff. Mr. Svee also noted that there have been companies doing cloud implementations before the terms software-as-a-service (SaaS) and platform-as-a-service (PaaS) were coined. Ultimately, he said, the cloud is about saving time along with the costs of the hardware and software. At the same time, Mr. Svee advised each IT professional to review the risks, noting, “Each journey is unique.”

Mr. Azeez recalled that when SOA appeared, everyone jumped on the bandwagon with high expectations, and then they were disappointed. It is a common cycle, he said while noting, “A couple years back, they said SOA was dead; I will not be surprised if people say ‘cloud is dead’ in a couple years.” Mr. Azeez cautioned that the cloud has a lot of hidden factors. For example, he noted, it is easy to start up a service on Amazon Web services, but in the long-term it could be more expensive than running it in your own data center. What if the provider goes out of business? What if the cloud application is locked into APIs? “Those are hidden factors you should know about before cloud adoption,” he advised.

If You Had to do SOA Again

Mr. Fremantle asked the panelists, “What would you do differently in SOA five years ago if you knew then what you know now?”

Mr. Malladi said that looking back five years, a few things came to mind. One is that the team at eBay first started with tightly controlled governance, and initially they had some progress, he said. However, the developers and community responded that this approach did not work, so the company revised its governance process.

Mr. Nathmal stated, “I would go slow on SOA.” Companies come in with a grand SOA vision, and then it fails miserably. SOA is not always the best way to solve a problem, he said. That is why it is better to go slowly and then adopt SOA only as needed. Mr. Nathmal added that open source software (OSS) is now mature, and so it is possible to implement SOA using OSS.

The Good, Bad or Ugly about SOA and Cloud

Mr. Fremantle next asked the panelists to weigh in on the best and worst aspects of SOA and the cloud.

Mr. Svee observed that one of the bad aspects of SOA is that everyone expects it to do everything. On the other side, he noted, “I’ve seen how a robust service layer in the cloud has enabled our mobile application. It’s been hugely successful. I think mobile deserves a shout out in driving the value.”

Mr. Azeez said that the ugly in cloud is when people talks about elasticity. The idea that someone can just put up an instance is a fairy tale, he noted. “Our experience is that even if you spin up a new instance, and it can spin up in 2 minutes or 15 minutes, by that time the node is useless.” However, he added, “There’s a lot of research taking place to solve these problems.”

To learn more about the panelists’ perspectives on SOA and cloud opportunities, challenges and best practices, view the full panel discussion here.


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  • WSO2Con 2011
  • Sri Lanka