Dev Guide to 2004 Opps in SOA, XML Projects

A new report from ZapThink says that 2004 will see a dramatic rise in the size, nature and breadth of service-oriented projects, and makes suggestions for how enterprise devs, especially those with Java and .NET credentials, should hone their skills to take advantage of the trends. Get some tips on the hot skills for 2004.

Tags: Integration, SOA, Architecture, Developers, Devs, Bloomberg, Report,

A new report from ZapThink says that 2004 will see a dramatic rise in the size, nature and breadth of service-oriented projects, and makes suggestions for how enterprise devs, especially those with Java and .NET credentials, should hone their skills to take advantage of the trends.

The report, entitled "Service Orientation Market Trends -- Predicting the Future of XML and Web Services," predicts the SOA march will forever change how application developers, business analysts and system integrators will work together -- or be replaced -- in enterprise IT projects.

"All distributed computing efforts will become Service-Oriented by 2010, report coauthor and ZapThink analyst Ronald Schmelzer told IDN. "As a result, a lot of markets that are currently non-SO will simply disappear (or more accurately, become subsumed within SO categories) before then." This includes the EAI, EII, ETL, Systems Management, Application Server, MOM, IDE and RAD developer tools, and many other markets, he said.

"As companies move to SOAs, they'll find that they don't need separate tools and techniques for integration and development, but rather these operations will become combined," Schmelzer added. "As a result, many of those integration markets will simply wither and become transformed into an SOA equivalent that doesn't resemble the current integration and runtime markets."

How Soon SOA; How Devs Should Prepare
The report also found, however, that disruption of traditional system integration can be a boon to developers with the right skills. In part, the report said: "No line-of-business executive wants to spend money on [application] integration. The only reason they do so is because integration is a problem. If at some point that problem is addressed architecturally, rather than through distinct products, then resources will have to no longer go toward integration."

However, the report makes a strong distinction between application integration and information integration. "Information integration, however, is quite a different story. As application integration issues are resolved architecturally, the integration issues that inevitably remain will involve bringing together disparate sources of information into a single view (information integration) and resolving the differences in meaning among those sources of information (semantic integration)." Keying in on how to facilitate such value-added information integration will be crucial to dev success during the transition, ZapThink analyst and report coauthor Jason Bloomberg said.

But the report underscores some prospective dangers to devs, as well. "The move to SOAs and the offshore outsourcing trend are a true double whammy for developers in the next few years," Bloomberg told IDN.

"As the lower-level skills go overseas, it will become increasingly important for today's developers to build their architecture skills, Bloomberg added. "In particular, enterprise architecture should be an enormous need in the years to come. What distinguishes the skill set of the enterprise architect from other architects like system or component architects is the need to understand the business from the process perspective."

Bottom-line advice from Bloomberg: "Developers who can move beyond coding to enterprise architecture, including business process design and analysis, will do well."

We asked Bloomberg, "What about middleware? Is it something devs should pay more attention to, or is it just going away as SOAP, XML and other web services technologies mature? "

"Middleware isn't going away," Bloomberg replied, "but it will fundamentally be changing form as problems that are thought of today as integration problems are solved architecturally through the application of SOAs." As an example of how this will affect day-to-day projects, Bloomberg said devs will still have application servers, message buses and the like for years to come, but they'll start thinking of these less as software and more as pieces of infrastructure for SOA applications.

Bloomberg put it this way: "[These app server/messaging components] will gradually become legacy as a new class of SOA implementation frameworks becomes established. Such implementation frameworks are suites or families of products that provide all the security, management, business process automation, integration, and development and testing tools needed to build, run and manage SOAs. In-house developers should become conversant with all of these categories of functionality, instead of specializing in only one or two.

How Real is SOA Today?
Schmelzer and Bloomberg estimate that devs have about 5-6 years before SOAs will become an across-the-board fait accompli throughout enterprise IT shops -- but there's little time for complacency. Their research found evidence that as a movement, SOA is gaining a foothold and increasing momentum.

"In just the last few months, there's been a dramatic shift from a developer context of web services [which he describes as standards-based RPC interfaces] to an architecture context," Bloomberg said. [This new "architecture" context includes what Bloomberg calls "elements of an abstraction layer for building business-oriented 'services' that can then be composed into service-oriented processes."]
Bloomberg noted that the "maturation of tools for architects from companies like IBM/Rational, BEA, Borland, Microsoft, and Sybase is a great indication of this trend."

The ZapThink team offers other advice for devs to prepare their companies, and their careers, for SOA-driven changes. Among their top tips:

  • Devs will need to understand how those integration markets will become transformed and how app server and development tool vendors will increasingly become runtime environments for integration.

  • Devs will also need to break out of their departmental (or silo-based) approach to projects and get a more global view of how their silo project affects the overall enterprise. Schmelzer especially noted that devs should pay special attention to "how point solutions may eventually become consolidated into a greater SOA implementation framework (SOAIF) that address[es] all development and runtime concerns."

  • While both ZapThink analysts say that even with SOA-driven changes, the need for specialty devs -- those who focus on management, process, and security - will persist. But these devs will also need to think beyond simple plug-in or point solutions, and, as Schmelzer put it, "must understand how different markets are combining to solve those problems."

ZapThink's 54-page SOA report is based on dozens of in-depth interviews with virtually all tools, web services and middleware vendors, as well as numerous end -users and standards bodies. It is available for $995 from ZapThink.