Industry report: SOA is overly hyped

Industry report: SOA is overly hyped

Nucleus Research has found that SOA adoption is more departmentally based, limiting its return on investment and overall use

"Rumors of SOA adoption rates are exaggerated," says an industry report being announced on Monday that tosses some cold water on the hot topic of SOA.

In a self-funded study entitled "Benchmarking: Service-Oriented Architecture," Nucleus Research and partner KnowledgeStorm said that while SOA drives developer productivity, SOA often ends with a single project or a few projects, which limits the ability for broad-based SOA to deliver ROI. The study's findings were based on a survey of 106 end-user organizations of various sizes.

In its survey, Nucleus found that fewer than half of enterprises have really adopted SOA.

"[SOA is] pretty far along the hype curve," and is now suffering some backlash, said David O'Connell, senior analyst at Nucleus.

"The findings are that generally, people are not getting a large amount of return on investment on SOA," O'Connell said. "Only a minority of companies are getting a return on investment on SOA."

SOA, the study said, "has been hyped for some time as a key way for companies to improve developer productivity, shorten project cycle times, and enable better integration in heterogeneous environments." The concept involves using standards-based reusable software components to develop applications built on business processes and enable integration.

But the promise of SOA is not being met.

"Despite most of the big players' aggressive marketing efforts, SOA adoption today is at best departmental and, at worst, limited to just using standards on specific projects," the study said.

SOA impacts only 27 percent of an organization's IT projects, the study found.

Nucleus cited several barriers to higher adoption rates:

-- Cultural, in which developers sometimes resist SOA because it requires them to reuse code developed by others. "In general, developers are creators of code, not modifiers of someone else's code," said O'Connell.

-- Training, with developers needing to acquire a new skill set to work with SOA services. Funding for this instruction is not there.

-- Infrastructure, in which registries and repositories needed to publish services are costly. Companies or localized teams using SOA tend to avoid buying them, leaving SOA underutilized.

"[Technology] vendors need to find a way to help companies get over that hump, that hump being [the] cost of registries and repositories and propagating practices," O'Connell said. Registries and repositories can costs hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said.

Another issue impeding adoption was lack of an internal champion to evangelize SOA. Adoption also tends to be too localized to enable meaningful developer adoption or service reuse. Project managers also are often unaware of SOA skills and assets as these may be localized.

"SOA definitely has promise," said O'Connell. "Vendors need to help users scale up their SOA better in order for it to become a major technology."

"While some companies have had pockets of success with SOA applications, the promise of broad reusability, clear governance, and business process optimization is still more PowerPoint than reality," Nucleus said.

SOA adoption rates are about 35 percent in companies with 500 to 1,000 employees and companies with more than 5,000 employees. In companies with no more than 100 employees, the rate is about 15 percent.

Healthcare organizations lead the way in adoption with about 62 percent of developers at healthcare concerns using it. Industrial and not-for-profit companies have the lowest adoption rates with fewer than one in five developers using SOA.

Companies using SOA did improve developer productivity by an average of 28 percent. But these savings may not be enough to justify the investment. Only 32 percent of published services have been reused.

Efforts to get such vendors as BEA Systems to respond to the study did not meet with any success.

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