Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Slicing the Gordian Knot of SOA Governance

Sometime last year, when I was working at WSO2, I was asked to write a white paper on SOA Governance. I made numerous attempts at this, and with each draft, I got lots of detailed technical feedback from some of WSO2's senior leadership team, but something wasn't working.

Ultimately, I realised that I had a fundamental philosophical argument with the whole notion of SOA Governance that I was being asked to write about. I felt that SOA was being overcomplicated and SOA Governance was a misnamed set of technology management tools. Now my problems with the white paper were not the fault of anyone at WSO2, because they were unfailingly patient with me. I finally realised that I had a problem with the entire SOA industry! Talk about fighting city hall...

To WSO2's immense credit, they let me go my own way instead of trying to force me to toe the industry line. They were gracious enough to tell me they would be willing to host any white paper I ultimately wrote, in their document library.

So I challenged myself at that point to "put up or shut up". If I thought the entire industry was wrong about SOA Governance, then I should at least put down in writing what I thought it should really be.

Well, it's been a whole year since then, folks, and the magnum opus is finally done!

I've called it "Slicing the Gordian Knot of SOA Governance - A Low-Ceremony Approach based on First Principles".

The impatient can go and download it right away from Slideshare. It's just 116 pages long :-). In case Slideshare is too hard, get it from mesfichiers.org or from box.com.

Important note: This is not a slide deck. It is a document in portrait mode, which Slideshare doesn't display well. I'm using Slideshare purely as a document sharing mechanism, so you'll have to download the document and read it off-line. It's too painful to view the document on-line.

I'm a bit exhausted right now, because the last week especially has been a mad rush trying to get this out the door. I have a workshop coming up on the 8th of December, and I want this out there so people will know what to expect when they sign up. Please write to courses@eignertech.com expressing your interest, and fairly soon!

Let me quote a few sections from the document that I think may be particularly interesting and counter-intuitive:

The four most important principles of SOA are dependencies, dependencies, dependencies and dependencies. We're not being entirely flippant in saying this, because there are four distinct “layers” in an organisation where dependencies need to be managed. These layers [...] are Business, Applications, Information (Data) and Technology.

“SOA Governance” does not mean the governance of SOA, any more than “scientific thinking” means “thinking about science”. [...] “SOA Governance” is about applying SOA thinking to governance, not about applying governance to SOA.

Governance is ensuring that the right things are done.
Management is ensuring that things are done right.

SOA Governance is determining what dependencies are legitimate at every layer of the organisation and identifying what existing dependencies fall outside this set.

SOA Management deals with how to remediate illegitimate dependencies at every layer of the organisation, how to formally document and communicate legitimate dependencies and how to prevent recurring violations.

Every expert unfailingly issues the standard disclaimer that SOA is not about technology, but the opposite message gets dog-whistled through the emphasis on products to manage web services, and ultimately prevails.

I hope that has whetted your appetite enough to make you download the white paper and read it.

I'm going to keep this draft version out there for a month or so. I'm open to all suggestions and feedback, and I hope to incorporate them into a final version that I will release before the end of December. I hope SOA practitioners and others will consider it a worthwhile Christmas gift :-).

Cheers and good night!


jem said...

Tried to go through the slides but the SlideShare system was nearly unusable in two different browsers (IE and Chrome).

Slides are larger than the viewing window, using the buttons and scrolling with the mouse wheel doesn't work as it jumps to the next slide, not the bottom of the one you're trying to read and you can't zoom in to show the whole page.

Full screen worked a little bit better but then you could only mouse wheel scroll.

Would like to read the deck, but it is just too painful.

Ganesh Prasad said...


They're not slides! This is a document in portrait mode. I use Slideshare as a document sharing mechanism only :-). Please download and read separately.


Ganesh Prasad said...


I just realised that people need accounts on Slidehare to be able to download documents. I've placed the white paper here as well: http://bit.ly/Tsub0I