It’s hard to believe that another year has come and gone, but with so much happening in 2008: global recession and economic stress, presidential elections, warfare and terrorism, natural disasters, and other happenings both good and bad, perhaps it’s good to shut the door quickly on this year and open up a new, more hopeful one. After all, it is at times of strife that sometimes the greatest successes emerge. And this is what we are hoping for in 2009: not just for the world at large, but for companies that adopt and implement the tenets of Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA).

In this ZapFlash, as is our usual practice, we’ll take a look at some of the predictions we made for this year and see how they panned out, and make some new ones. We’ll scold ourselves for predictions that missed the mark, and of course, give ourselves kudos for the ones that were spot on. This time, however, we’d like to wax more realistic with our 2009 projections. No doubt this year will be a difficult one for most companies throughout the world, and as such, we’d like to be as realistic and helpful as we can with our projections.

2008: How Did We Do?
In our 2008 SOA Forecast, we already acknowledged that the economy was entering a slowdown. While the news media finally picked up on it by mid-year, already in January 2008, we stated that the economy downturn would have significant impact on IT purse strings. That being said, we did not see that there would be a universal pattern of cancelations or postponements of SOA initiatives, but rather the emergence of two groups: those who did not understand or justify a business case for SOA and therefore would be required to rethink those efforts, and those who already experienced economic benefits and therefore would accelerate them in the economic downturn. To a certain extent, we are seeing this very behavior. In fact, there has been significant discussion in the media and blogosphere about the dichotomy between those firms accelerating their SOA efforts and those that are shelving them. Most likely, we will continue to see that same behavior throughout 2009. Plus one point for ZapThink.

Our second prediction was that the concept of the Enterprise Mashup would come into its own and potentially even usurp the visibility of SOA. As we stated, “SOA will fade from view as an increasing number of organizations focus on enterprise mashups as the mechanism for business empowerment in the enterprise.” While there was heightened interest in enterprise mashups in 2008, I think we can fairly say we missed the mark on this one. A number of companies put most (if not all) their chips into the mashup market category, and when the market failed to develop as we prognosticated, they floundered. ZapThink clearly believes there is merit in the enterprise mashup concept, but perhaps its time has not yet come. Companies are still struggling with the basics of business survival and therefore the concepts of business agility and empowerment exist only second to basic survival. Minus one point for ZapThink.

Our third and final prediction for 2008 was that there would be continued consolidation in the SOA space culminating in an acquisition of ZapThink itself. While there was no doubt significant consolidation in the space (the SOA platform vendors get increasingly bigger and more monolithic), our prediction about ZapThink missed the mark. Well, perhaps the prediction wasn’t a complete miss as we did receive, and reject, two offers for ZapThink that didn’t meet our requirements. Yet, this is good news for all you readers as those offers would have required us to rethink our strategy and business model, and perhaps provide less value to you, our valued customers. So, no points added or deducted for this prediction. Final score: just like the Detroit Lions, a zero for the year.

2009: A Year of Modest Gains
Let’s hope we can do better for our 2009 predictions. Our predictions will be modest, yet we’ll still try to stick our neck out a bit to make the predictions debate-worthy. The first big prediction is that we will see at least one notable and well-publicized SOA failure and one notable and well-publicized SOA success. So that we can accurately determine if we successfully called this prediction at this time next year, let’s define our terms. By “notable and well-publicized”, we mean that the company in question will be featured in at least one major IT industry trade magazine and perhaps even a major international news daily. The success or failure will have significant business impact specifically attributable to the organization’s adoption of SOA. On the success side, it might mean specific revenue, product release, merger and acquisition opportunity, or reduced liability directly attributable to a particular SOA project. On the failure side, it would mean a large investment in SOA, whose “failure” (as determined by the company in question) resulted in loss of revenue, market share, opportunity, compliance, or other negative impact. Either way, we will acknowledge that by this time next year, there will be at least one undisputed success and one undisputed failure due to SOA.

If our business is any indication, we believe that SOA education and training will be in significant demand throughout 2009. In particular, we believe that there will be tens of millions of dollars spent worldwide educating enterprise architects, IT practitioners, project managers, and line of business in proper usage and application of SOA. SOA training revenues and opportunities will greatly increase the size of consulting and service firms and even result in the doubling of the size of ZapThink.

Prediction #3: Cloud, cloud, cloud. We have already started to hear more about cloud computing and anything cloud-related as the year drew to a close. We expect the din of the cloud-related chatter to turn into a real roar by this time next year. Everything SOA-related will probably be turned into something cloud-related by all the big vendors, and companies will desperately try to turn their SOA initiatives into cloud initiatives. Time will tell if this emphasis on cloud computing is a good thing for the future of SOA and IT, but we are hopeful that some of the themes that are emerging in cloud computing will borrow heavily from what was learned about SOA, and Service-oriented cloud computing initiatives become the rule in 2009, rather than the exception.

To put a bit more meat on the bone, we believe that the term “cloud” itself will be better defined and understood throughout 2009. Our perspective is that cloud computing infers location and platform neutrality, the emergence of virtualization as applied to applications and process, and a distributed, virtualized approach to Software-as-a-Service. In order to realize these goals, cloud computing requires key SOA best practices, as to do cloud computing right, organizations need to build Business Services that abstract the cloud resources. Given that the goal of SOA is loosely-coupled, platform-agnostic, flexible capabilities in the face of continuous change, one could say that cloud computing architectures need to be inherently Service-oriented. The irony is that while SOA might be required to do cloud computing right, people might not know they’re “doing SOA” when they do cloud computing, but it doesn’t matter. After all, we don’t believe that SOA needs to be visible to be useful… it just needs to be used.

The ZapThink Take
This whole ZapFlash has been ZapThink’s take. We’d like to hear your take. One of the biggest changes you’ll see from ZapThink in 2009 is a completely new website with an emphasis on SOA education and training, advisory, and a growing repository of SOA artifacts and documents. It will also be a lot more interactive with you, our over 34,000 readers of the ZapFlash and subscribers to our research and advisory. Our Licensed ZapThink Architect (LZA) community now stands at almost 700 credentialed architects, and you’ll see us providing even greater value to that community as we promote this army of well-educated and qualified SOA architects. But more importantly, the growth and success of the SOA market depends on you. We have been honored to be part of the market’s understanding of SOA since our inception in 2000, and we hope to continue to be valuable to you in 2009. And that is our real prediction for the year ahead.
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