Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Preparing for WSO2Con 2011

Well, it looks like I'm going to be attending WSO2's annual technical conference WSO2Con in Colombo this September (12th-16th). It'll be good to hear speakers from around the world speak about SOA-related topics and the WSO2 product suite in particular. I believe the latter is one of the SOA industry's best-kept secrets. Here is a comprehensive suite of middleware products that is completely Open Source, and for which commercial support is available at very reasonable rates. I'm surprised more organisations aren't using it. Perhaps the awareness wave is just breaking and we'll see a surge in adoption in the next couple of years. Let's see.

I'm also slated to conduct an introductory tutorial on SOA on the first day of the conference, and I'm excited about that. Over the last few years, I've been developing a few ideas on "Practical SOA for Solution Architects" that I'd like to present, and I'm eager to get feedback on that approach.

What I've seen to my disappointment over the past several years is that in spite of extensive coverage of SOA in the IT industry, the actual payoff from the application of SOA is embarrassingly low. In fact, I hear from sources in large IT shops that have rolled out multi-million dollar SOA initiatives that the cost of building services today is higher than in the past when older EAI techniques were used.

I've been puzzled at this, and have discussed it at length with colleagues and peers. It looks like three different factors are at work.

  1. Cynicism: There is a view among many IT professionals that SOA is yet another buzzword that has come and gone, and it's no longer relevant to the industry. So they don't even bother to learn what it's about.
  2. The theory-practice gap: Lots of IT folk have been exposed to core SOA concepts ("Loose coupling"), but they don't seem to be able to apply it in real-world solution designs. SOA remains in the realm of theory, which is a pity, because it can be a real money-saver.
  3. Products as surrogates for principles: Organisations have collectively spent a packet on SOA products from IBM, TIBCO, Oracle and the like, but the actual solution designs being produced in-house for business projects are as tightly-coupled as ever, suggesting that IT practitioners seem to think the use of SOA products is an adequate substitute for Service-Oriented application design.
I have come to the conclusion that what's required is a new approach to educating people about SOA. It has to be less theoretical and more focused on real-world situations. And it has to be lightweight, because people are busy and don't have the attention span required for a heavyweight methodology. Above all, it has to be sound, because we don't want to spread incorrect practices in the name of simplicity.

I'm preparing a whitepaper on this, and it will probably be released through WSO2, since a lot of the encouragement for it has come from Sanjiva Weerawarana, WSO2's CEO. It's only fitting that WSO2 get the credit for bringing this educational tool to a wider audience.

I'll also be posting my slides from the conference on this blog when I'm done. I'm sure they'll also be available from the WSO2Con conference website.

Stay tuned.


Sid said...

Could not agree more. The simple & unassuming nature of WSO2 products left me baffled and intrigued.
For example, consider the "access throttling", "response caching" and "ws-security" setup options that are so easy to configure and change out-of-the-box.
Plus the tight integration of all WSO2 products with the Governance Registry throughout the SDLC is amazing at the least.
There are a few shortcomings such as those around the "adapter" space but that can be easily overcome through quick engagement with WSO2 engineers. The other one was around complex data transformations (might need to use a separate specialised tool - something like Progress DXSI or JBoss Smooks).

Another brilliant product that can complement WSO2 products is Progress Actional, which I think should be a mandatory requirement for enterprise-class SOA.

Ganesh Prasad said...


JBoss Smooks *is* supported in WSO2 Carbon Studio. Until WSO2 develop their own transformation tool, one can use Smooks. I guess that's the beauty of Open Source - no IP infringement hassles even between commercial competitors!


Malith Dhanushka said...

WSO2 carbon Studio is supporting JBoss Smooks Editor since its 1.0.5 version.And WSO2 ESB has also integrated Smooks mediation engine since its 3.0.1 version.
Here is the related article http://wso2.org/library/tutorials/2011/06/perform-data-mapping-smooks-editor-wso2-carbon-studio

Keheliya Gallaba said...

I heard your tutorial went great. Too bad I missed it cz I was at the equally cool session on osgi in a parallel track. Can't wait till they get videos and slides up on WSO2con site. :-)

Ganesh Prasad said...

Thanks, Keheliya. I got some good feedback on the session, so I'm very happy. There's a whitepaper on which this tutorial was based, and that should be coming out in a matter of weeks.