Q&A: Cloud Computing and SOA Convergence

SOA and cloud computing are hot topics in IT. Here's what you need to understand about how they're interconnected and how you can take advantage of their benefits.

SOA and cloud computing are two of the “hot” topics in IT, so it’s no surprise that they’re connected. David Linthicum, the author or coauthor of 13 books on computing -- his latest is Cloud Computing and SOA Convergence in Your Enterprise (Addison Wesley) -- says understanding SOA helps you take advantage of cloud computing’s benefits.

Enterprise Systems: Why does one need to understand SOA to take advantage of cloud computing?

David Linthicum: Cloud computing is really about extending your existing enterprise architecture out to the platform of the clouds. SOA provides an architectural approach to address existing IT assets as sets of services, and when you’re looking at cloud computing, they simply become other services to add to the architecture that you don’t happen to own or host, and are more cost effective to leverage. Thus, when approaching cloud computing using SOA as a foundation, you’re going to have much better chance of success and thus drive systemic beneficial change.

What are the core benefits of cloud computing for the Global 2000?

Cost and scalability are the largest initial benefits. No longer do you need to purchase waves of hardware and software to toss at business automation problems; instead you can provision a cloud computing platform, and scale up to any level you need which is directly in line with the money you’re spending. Thus, you pay for just what you leverage, and can scale on demand. Costs and risks go way down, and efficiency and speed-to-deployment become a core benefit of leveraging cloud computing.

How does one make a business case for cloud computing?

First, look at the “as is” state of your architecture, what’s working well, and what needs to improve. From there, you create a logical “to be,” including an architecture that’s leveraging cloud computing. The benefits of the cost savings and functional efficiencies from the “as is” to the “to be” is really your core business case. Other things to consider are the value of shifting risk from on premise systems to cloud computing providers, and the strategic benefit of immediate provisioning of cloud computing resources as needed to support the business.

What kind of performance can we expect after moving to the cloud?

For the most part, end users won’t know they are on the cloud. Performance should not be an issue in most instances. However, you do need to consider bandwidth when moving large volumes of data to and from a cloud computing provider. If your Internet connection is slow, perhaps moving huge image files back and forth from a storage-as-a-service provider is not a good idea.

How will the traditional enterprise software players embrace cloud computing?

Most have embraced it with new offerings or by relocating their existing software to an as-a-service model. The larger issue will be the change to their core business. Using cloud computing means less revenue for most of them because lucrative licensing agreements are no longer a way of life and enterprises can shift easily to cloud providers. In the long run, their revenue models will have to change, and they can either figure out how to make the new model work or focus on becoming a “cash cow” legacy business.

What is the role of service governance in the context of cloud computing?

It’s important considering that we’re leveraging hundreds of services that are distributed between on-premise and cloud-computing systems. We’ll have to govern those services. Service policy management takes on a whole new degree of importance, and the use of runtime service governance technology is an absolute must when considering cloud computing.

What are some of the options for cloud computing training?

Three options really. First, learn on your own. Read books, read blogs, listen to podcasts, and even sign up from the training accounts from cloud computing providers. Second, implement a small cloud computing project and learn through on-the-job training. Make sure to pick something simple that won’t kill your business if it fails. I would also recommend using a mentor or a consultant if you can find one. Finally, formal training through several consulting and training companies is a good choice. However, you need to understand that they are going to provide you with the basics, and won’t make experts out of you right away.

How many of our existing applications will run in the cloud after 5 years?

Some of them; not even close to all of them. Many consider cloud computing as the new domain for all applications and data. The reality is that although some applications and databases will find a good and functional home in the clouds, most of the existing applications will remain on premise when looking at the next 5 years. Who knows beyond that.

How are you involved in cloud computing and SOA?

I’ve been a thought leader in the EAI space since I wrote the book that coined the term back in 1997. Then, I moved onto SOA as a natural evolution of application integration and studied and practiced the use of SOA to make enterprise architecture much more agile and in line with the business. I have always leveraged cloud computing within an SOA as an architectural option for running services that are part of an SOA. The cloud computing movement really sprang out of that. Also, I’ve been the CTO of a cloud computing company and CEO of two cloud computing companies prior to me moving into consulting. I learned a lot in those positions, as well as being a thought leader in the SOA and cloud computing space, which is my focus currently.

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