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I recently read a article by Bhaskar Chakrabarti from JP Morgan Chase who started his article with:

Often when I start discussing SOA, a story comes to my mind that I first heard from my grand father when I was kid. It is about six blind men who encounter an elephant for the first time in their life. They perceive the animal differently and start fighting amongst themselves. One who touched its tail thought it was a snake, another who got hold of his trunk thought it to be a tree branch, the third, bumping against his rigid body, thought it was a wall while the fourth, getting hold of his legs, thought it to be a log of wood and so on. Later on they were made aware by a wise man that each of them was correct in their own perspective and that the elephant is all of what they sensed and much more.

Whilst at first I quite liked this analogy until I started to think about it a little more deeply. What Bhaskar was trying to convey was that SOA means different things to different people. While I fully agree with this desire I feel the analogy is wrong! The six men had never encountered an elephant before and therefore made their ‘observations’(I know difficult for blind men) based on what they perceived from a limited contact with the Elephant and jumped to disconnected assumptions. Furthermore there assumptions were wrong!

In the case of the SOA context the ‘observers’ are not blind they simply have rather specific viewpoints:

  • The business user has a view that is determined by the needs of the business. SOA provides services that can be provided in exchange for value. Services can be marketed, sold and of course accounted for.
  • The operations user has a view based on how to deliver services using SOA. They see SOA from how it will manage service level expectations and how to differentiate services based on service-level agreements.
  • And finally the development team. They simply have a view of how to create and evolve service offerings in an SOA way. They see SOA as the way to architect, document and deliver using the tools and models to hand. Its a means to an end of delivering results to business from IT.

What really is true about SOA is that it sparks debate and this should be good. My Step-father, who has just started computing at 67, has an interesting take. He asked me if my company was ‘doing the SOA’ thing! He’d read something about it during a ‘Silver Surf’. When I answered yes he said something interesting….

“You know if a business isn’t already ‘Service Orientated’ then it won’t be in business for long! What's more if it hasn’t got a handle on its services then what's it up to? If Marks and Spencers didn’t understand its main service is to provide the right clothes and the right price when your mother wants to buy them they’d go bust! And if they haven’t got the bits and pieces in place to make it happen then it will make it even harder for them. So all the wizzbang computers and the stuff that makes them talk together must be made simply to support that’

That really got me thinking: So maybe SOA is just away of IT, Operations and Business being able to describe services needed to deliver success for the business! or just an elephant!


Previously posted at Posted on Thursday, July 13, 2006 6:45 AM | Back to top

Comments on this post: SOA and the Elephant

# A simple but practical explanation of SOA
Requesting Gravatar... Excerpt: "That really got me thinking:
Left by David Strommer on Oct 04, 2006 7:23 PM

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