Tuesday, August 05, 2014

My Books On Dependency-Oriented Thinking - Why They Should Count

InfoQ has published both volumes of my book "Dependency-Oriented Thinking". The links are below.

I'll admit it feels somewhat anticlimactic for me to see these books finally published, because I finished writing them in December 2013 after about two years of intermittent work. They have been available as white papers on Slideshare since Christmas 2013. The last seven months have gone by in reviews, revisions and the various other necessary steps in the publication process. And they have made their appearance on InfoQ's site with scarcely a splash. Is that all?, I feel like asking myself. But I guess I shouldn't feel blasé. These two books are a major personal achievement for me and represent a significant milestone for the industry, and I say this entirely without vanity.

You see, the IT industry has been misled for over 15 years by a distorted and heavyweight philosophy that has gone by the name "Service-Oriented Architecture" (SOA). It has cost organisations billions of dollars of unnecessary spend, and has fallen far short of the benefits that it promised. I too fell victim to the hype around SOA in its early days, and like many other converted faithful, tried hard to practise my new religion. Finally, like many others who turned apostate, I grew disillusioned with the lies, and what disillusioned me the most was the heavyhandedness of the "Church of SOA", a ponderous cathedral of orthodox practice that promised salvation, yet delivered nothing but daily guilt.

But unlike others who turned atheist and denounced SOA itself, I realised that I had to found a new church. Because I realised that there was a divine truth to SOA after all. It was just not to be found in the anointed bible of the SOA church, for that was a cynical document designed to suit the greed of the cardinals of the church rather than the needs of the millions of churchgoers. The actual truth was much, much simpler. It was not easy, because "simple" and "easy" are not the same thing. (If you find this hard to understand, think about the simple principle "Don't tell lies", and tell me whether it is easy to follow.)

I stumbled upon this simple truth through a series of learnings. I thought I had hit upon it when I wrote my white paper "Practical SOA for the Solution Architect" under the aegis of WSO2. But later, I realised there was more. The WSO2 white paper identified three core components at the technology layer. It also recognised that there was something above the technology layer that had to be considered during design. What was that something? Apart from a recognition of the importance of data, the paper did not manage to pierce the veil.

The remaining pieces of the puzzle fell into place as I began to consider the notion of dependencies as a common principle across the technology and data layers. The more I thought about dependencies, the more things started to make sense at layers even above data, and the more logical design at all these layers followed from requirements and constraints.

In parallel, there was another train of thought to which I once again owe a debt of gratitude to WSO2. While I was employed with the company, I was asked to write another white paper on SOA governance. A lot of the material I got from company sources hewed to the established industry line on SOA governance, but as with SOA design, the accepted industry notion of SOA governance made me deeply uncomfortable. Fortunately, I'm not the kind to suppress my misgivings to please my paymasters, and so at some point, I had to tell them that my own views on SOA governance were very different. To WSO2's credit, they encouraged me to write up my thoughts without the pressure to conform to any expected models. And although the end result was something so alien to establishment thought that they could not endorse it as a company, they made no criticism.

So at the end of 2011, I found myself with two related but half-baked notions of SOA design and SOA governance, and as 2012 wore on, my thoughts began to crystallise. The notion of dependencies, I saw, played a central role in every formulation. The concept of dependencies also suggested how analysis, design, governance and management had to be approached. It had a clear, compelling logic.

I followed my instincts and resisted all temptation to cut corners. Gradually, the model of "Dependency-Oriented Thinking" began to take shape. I conducted a workshop where I presented the model to some practising architects, and received heartening validation and encouragement. The gradual evolution of the model mainly came about through my own ruminations upon past experiences, but I also received significant help from a few friends. Sushil Gajwani and Ravish Juneja are two personal friends who gave me examples from their own (non-IT) experience. These examples confirmed to me that dependencies underpin every interaction in the world. Another friend and colleague, Awadhesh Kumar, provided an input that elegantly closed a gaping hole in my model of the application layer. He pointed out that grouping operations according to shared interface data models and according to shared internal data models would lead to services and to products, respectively. Kalyan Kumar, another friend who attended one of my workshops, suggested that I split my governance whitepaper into two to address the needs of two different audiences - designers and managers.

And so, sometime in 2013, the model crystallised. All I then had to do was write it down. On December 24th, I completed the two whitepapers and uploaded them to Slideshare. There has been a steady trickle of downloads since then, but it was only after their publication by InfoQ that the documents have gained more visibility.

These are not timid, establishment-aligned documents. They are audacious and iconoclastic. I believe the IT industry has been badly misled by a wrongheaded notion of SOA, and that I have discovered (or re-discovered, if you will) the core principle that makes SOA practice dazzlingly simple and blindingly obvious. I have not just criticised an existing model. I have been constructive in proposing an alternative - a model that I have developed rigorously from first principles, validated against my decades of experience, and delineated in painstaking detail. This is not an edifice that can be lightly dismissed. Again, these are not statements of vanity, just honest conviction.

I believe that if an organisation adopts the method of "Dependency-Oriented Thinking" that I have laid out in these two books (after testing the concepts and being satisfied that they are sound), then it will obtain the many benefits of SOA that have been promised for years - business agility, sustainably lower operating costs, and reduced operational risk.

It takes an arc of enormous radius to turn around a gigantic oil tanker cruising at top speed, and I have no illusions about the time it will take to bring the industry around to my way of thinking. It may be 5-10 years before the industry adopts Dependency-Oriented Thinking as a matter of course, but I'm confident it will happen. This is an idea whose time has come.


Seshadri Kumar said...

Congratulations, Ganesh!

Ganesh Prasad said...

Thanks, Kumar.

Humanist said...

Congrats GCP..look forward to reading it .. sunil/brissy (not sure why it says my name as "humanist"!)

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