April 08, 2007 | co.mments
Does anyone care?
Tim Bray: "This happens over and over. New WS-* spec submission, check. Insanely huge charter locking down the conclusion and ensuring a rubber-stamp outcome, check. Loads of dependencies on WS-standards, WS-drafts, WS-submissions, and other WS-handwaving, check. Resolute obliviousness to other technologies that address the same problem, check."
Burton Group: "The WSFED charter gives lip service to working on convergence with SAML 2.0. Like other commenters, we find this less than convincing; the WSFED charter's invitation to other standards committees looks like a passive-aggressive maneuver. It puts the onus on SAML 2.0, which has already been standardized, to come to WSFED on their terms and make changes to an established standard to accommodate features of a specification which was not developed in an open forum and is not yet a standard."
Eve Maler: "UPDATE: The telecon was held this morning. TC convener Paul Cotton responded to the collected comments by reading from a prepared text that gave the same answer 30 times: “Proposed response: no changes to the WSFED TC charter are required.” The sole exception was to accept the comment noting extraneous characters. Message received loud and clear"
Paul Madsen: "No change is required"
I read what Tim, Eve, Paul and The Burton Group had to say. The criticisms lacked bite. I found myself strangely unmoved, unsurprised, unshocked, unconcerned. I saw that a firestorm has not been lit across weblogs, as would have been the case not even a year ago. It seems that no-one cares anymore, and WSFED will be consigned to irrelevance and along with it, much of the promotion around WS-*. WS-* as a process, as a technical means designing systems , as a way to generate 'future business value' now lacks credibility. This has less to the do with the technology involved and more to do with how the technology has be presented to the market, and consequently how it has evolved.
The Business of IT is Business
This apathy is bad news for the handful of vendors and OSS communities who are at least trying to get something done with WS-*, instead of managing incumbent revenue streams via standardisation. It's bad news for those technologists, consultants and analysts who promoted WS-* years ago, and now have to quietly disassociate themselves or reframe the past as a great learning. It's bad news for those with deployed WS-* systems, who might be facing yet another re-architecting exercise in the coming years.
The lessons to be learned from the heavy-handed promotion of WS-* are twofold.
First, both enterprise software and services organisations need to rein in their marketing and sales divisions, as strange as that might sound. In essence, they need to stop promising miracles. What has happened with WS-* promotion, and what is happening with SOA is bad for the industry, bad for shareholder value. Customers will come to reject the vendor/analyst/consultant triumvirate if it comes to appear to be nothing more than a racket. In effect, that would be a rejection of the entire market. This helps no-one, least of all customers, dependent as they are on software and related services. More realistic approaches to the market need to be found - "rip and replace" of IT assets isn't a sustainable model (ironically WS-* in the beginning was about avoiding such expense).
Second, and more important, one cannot cleave technology from business and expect good results in technological matters. This has afflicted the evolution of WS-* for years. There has been much talk since the dotbomb collapse about alignment and governance, yet what seems to have happened is that technology and delivery aspects have been given short shrift. In the meantime business people make uninformed technology bets that have to be honored with vigorish later by IT departments and project teams. The notion that the "business of IT is business", has been transformed into "IT doesn't matter", with the consequence that the valid concerns of IT people are not heeded.
IT is Business, Business is IT.
However good the slogan the "business of IT is business" might have sounded after the dotcom bubble, the gap has in fact widened. Critically the upkeep and maintenance of legacy systems has come to dominate business software spending. Most large enterprise IT divisions now have the equivalent of a pensions fund crisis, except that all the money is being spent on old systems instead of old people.
In software projects, the devil is truly in the details. IT projects tend flounder not due to big picture issues. They fail due to the details of delivery, which leads to gross cost under-estimations and to project death spirals. Getting into details "at another date", one which is always deferred, cannot be therefor considered a sound approach to project risk. Nor can the diversion of funds to new grand projects based on new architectural precepts away from upkeep and modernisation of existing systems that literally "run the enterprise".
By the same token, process models that encourage strong separation of software and business functions are arguably broken - just why can't your business analysts make initial assessments of the technical costs instead of drawing matchstick men? Why is it that VPs, well able to understand complex matters like logistics, options theory and even spreadsheet programming, get a pass when it comes to something conceptually simple like their intranet or email systems? The result is further cost and inefficiency as requirements and needs are transliterated back and forth between competing specialisations. That WS-* was pitched as an abstraction, as a way to not have to care about technical details has not helped.
What's next for IT?
Assaf Arkin correctly observes that REST is now the "cool by association" technology. That will be interesting - REST is technically grounded and puports to describe the as-is architecture of the Web. The grassroots that promote it and build in that style have made it clear they have no truck with the marketing spiel that currently surrounds WS-* and SOA. Indeed the growth and promotion of REST and Internet style has been done in sharp counterpoint to WS-* technologies. Expect a lot of people to get grilled, if not flamed, as they try and repurpose the REST label. Yet however curmudgeonly REST proponents like to act, some dilution seems inevitable, as has been the case with with business adoption of open source (both its software and its processes). And do not be surprised to see specific WS-* technologies and ideas with technical merit, such as SAML and payload encryption, make an appearance while the process that generated them is discarded.
April 8, 2007 04:17 PM
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