Lately, I've been involved in chatter across the blogosphere and analysphere over the distinction between service-oriented architecture (SOA) and private clouds.
There's good reason for the confusion: SOA, in development in recent years, focuses on the development and delivery of shared services across enterprise walls; whereas, private clouds focus on the development and delivery of shared services across enterprise walls. See how different they are?
Okay, a way to distinguish the concepts is that SOA is about the architecture of the supporting systems; cloud is the delivery mechanisms. That still hasn't stopped vendors from “cloud-washing” their formerly SOA-centric products, such as governance and integration tools, and branding them as “cloud” solutions.
One Gartner analyst, for instance, considers SOA and cloud computing to be very different concepts, and cautions against confusing the two. SOA deals with underlying technology, cloud deals with business delivery, says David Mitchell Smith.
“People will say ‘we are doing SOA so we are ready for the cloud’, but the difference between SOA services and the cloud context is huge,” Smith says. “With cloud, you pay for the outcome, not the technology. In cloud, the service terminology you are focusing on is a relationship between service provider and consumer, not technology provider and consumer.”
However, other industry thinkers say effective cloud computing depends on the ability to deploy key SOA tenets: governance, loosely coupled systems, sharable services.
As insurance companies build on their service-oriented deployments and move to private clouds, expect to see plenty of market confusion of where SOA ends and cloud begins. But one thing is certain: an effective SOA deployment can lay the groundwork for cloud formations. Either way, many of our applications and systems will be delivered as services that will cross many an enterprise wall.
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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