When SOAs rule the world

Author Geoffrey Moore explains how SOAs will become the underlying force of the new data center.

Geoffrey Moore, known for his IT marketing book, Crossing the Chasm, is widely regarded as an industry visionary. Lately, he has become one of a handful of clear voices that help corporations and vendors redefine their IT infrastructure goals based on new data center technologies. Because the global extended enterprise - the "inter-enterprise" - will be the business model of the future, network executives should be crafting long-term architecture plans to ready themselves for it, Moore says, who is managing director of consulting firm TCG Advisors, founder of the Chasm Group and a venture partner at Mohr Davidow Ventures. He recently discussed the new data center with Signature Series Executive Editor Julie Bort.

TCG Advisors envisions a new computing model for when the inter-enterprise becomes the basis of all IT infrastructure. Where can we expect the most change?

All the action is going to be in the middle [layer] in preparation for a significant change at the top in about five years. We are all [preparing] for a new business model: the inter-enterprise network value chain. For the inter-enterprise network value chain, traditional business applications need to be re-architected so they can cross company boundaries. When people look at this re-architecting, they see two huge barriers: the middleware, because our software doesn't work this way, and the business process layer, because people don't have a lot of experience [with it]. There will be a fair amount of trial and error before we figure this out. Even thought leaders are struggling.

Tell me about the middleware barrier - that our software doesn't work this way - isn't that the reason for service-oriented architectures (SOA)?

Absolutely. [Enterprise] software is set up to work on a client/server structure in a single corporation dividing the presentation layer from the compute and data layers. The goal has been managing information. We're shifting from managing information to managing processes. Information is an important attribute in process management, but it's not the goal. So trying to turn data into information is the wrong way to look at the problem. What we are trying now is to manage processes across multiple states, where any portion of the process can be in multiple states. So you have to keep state - which is a computing idea - and you have to coordinate actions among self-managing logic. That's the service-oriented architecture paradigm.

The concept behind SOA isn't new. What has changed to make it more valid this time?

Globally, the low-cost economy of Asia is now coming online and Asian vendors are a resource to the highly developed economies for cost reduction. So, on the one hand, you want to reach out to this system to lower your own [costs]. But the very same vendors are going straight to your customers and so they are commoditizing industries that for a long time had high margins. These include the PC industry - witness IBM exiting to Lenovo - consumer electronics, appliances, furniture and apparel. Those industries now have to reinvent themselves. This architecture is going to be necessary to recombine the world into something newly valuable that hasn't been done yet. What service-oriented architectures let you do is recombine - they are like Legos - to make all kinds of innovations out of the existing components of the world. This is very productive. If you're stuck in a client/server system you can't participate in that.

For example, the traditional approach for manufacturers is to design, source, build and sell. But in an SOA world, a company might start with sourcing: find out which are the lowest-cost parts it can source, figure out what it can design with those parts, sell the design ideas and only build what customers will buy.

How does a SOA affect the rest of the stack?

If you implemented just in software, you would bring the entire world to its knees. Multiple revolutions of semiconductor chip redesigns will be required to handle service-oriented processes. The classic microprocessor architecture that Intel dominated is going to become much less relevant. More relevant will be a network processing style of architecture. Everything is going to become a router. Router chip ASICs are going to become more central to the design/architecture of systems than the compute cycles of a microprocessor. This means that a company like Cisco is going to run head-on to a company like Sun because both are going to want to build the machines that handle all this.

What should network executives be doing now to ensure they are building a viable architecture for the new data center?

It behooves them to have a business architecture that would imply a software and a hardware architecture underneath it. And it's a 10-year [plan] - this isn't going to be a short-term thing.

What industries are most capable of inter-enterprise architectures on a large scale?

Value chain reengineering is about doing things hundreds of thousands and even millions of times. Probably the automotive industry is [closest because it] has a highly distributed value chain. What's interesting - and this is true of all inter-enterprise success - is that a highly concentrated part of the value chain forces everybody else to dance to its tune. You see this on the supply side in the automobile industry and on the distribution side in the retail industry [with companies such as] Wal-Mart.

Moore’s next-generation stack

When the extended enterprise becomes the basis for all IT infrastructure, this conceptual model will emerge.
Business layerConsulting services
Transaction applications
Analytical applications
Communications and collaboration applications
Compute processesApplication server infrastructure
Systems management infrastructure
Database
Operating system
Compute enginesMainframes
Servers
Storage
Network
Microprocessor

Learn more about this topic

Early adopters: SOA worth the effortNetwork World, 11/08/04Service-oriented hype to meet hard realities

Network World, 11/01/04

SOA is worth network redesign

Network World, 08/30/04

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