Monday, September 01, 2008

Visual SOA on your way!

Have you ever wondered why Google Maps leads over others in the mashups world?. Why do you think iPhone is so attractive over other phones? In India, iPhone 3G was recently launched and it costs $800, twice as much as the US price and people are still buying it. Why? - I strongly believe it is because of its visual appeal, ease of use and the purpose it serves. The user interface doesn't make one to 'think' to figure out what purpose it serves and how to use it. And thats the quality of good UI.
Now, let us come back to SOA world. Have you ever convinced a business analyst about why SOA is required? or beneficial to the company?. If you have had, you would know what I am talking about.
Whether its an Operational SLA explanation, product issue, or new strategic initiative like SOA - The communication between IT and business holds the key. If you are unable to communicate the technical message that is understandable and appreciatable to the business, your success is uncertain. Especially in the case of SOA, without business involvement, its just not qualified to be called as 'SOA'.
Take the case of next level from business owners to business process analysts. I couldnt think of business analysts modeling complicated business process diagrams using the famous, sophisticated modeling tools. I have interacted with those business analysts in SOA initiatives and their experience most of the times is found to be 'messy'. Though they may be able to create and author certain artificats for a while, ongoing maintenance and governance is a nightmare in those modeling tools.
So what is the solution?. - Zapthink has a take here. Zapthink is one of my favorite and admired analysts in the SOA space. And I have heard its lead Analyst Jason Bloomberg speak in one of the events. Zapthink is vendor agnostic and approaches SOA purely from business drivers perspective.
In this article, Zapthink analyst Jason Bloomberg ideates that applying 'Semiotics' to the SOA will ease the communication of Service abstraction to business. Semiotics is a study of sign processes using signs and symbols and typically used in communication. In this article, Jason gives a simple but an illuminating example of how we all use the 'Window' symbol in our Desktop to manage applications within the System.
The point Jason makes is that SOA will not be useful to the business without working visualizations. And we have a living example - Mashups. Consumers all around the world have created so many visual mashups only to prove that, if they find something visually appealing and understandable, they can put their imagniative ideas around it and create a all new business purpose serving mashups. Can we create this magic in the enterprise world?. Can we expose our business services in a Visual appealing environment?. Not in the form of 'Service repositories'.
If we can, and I would call that as SOA tipping point.
And one can see for himself the progressions being made in the visual environments. We are moving from web 1.0 to web 2.0/RIA. And from web 2.0 to Virtual worlds. Intel is actively working on a whole new paradigm called 'Visual computing' to provide a new visual computing environment for graphically intensive computing environments such as Gaming and Engineering.
I strongly believe there is one disruptive innovation that is waiting to happen between RIA and Virtual Worlds. Virtual Worlds interface is just processor-hungry. (When I tried Second Life in my Laptop, it simply hung). RIA is so good but I find it not so mature to front-end business applications. So an interim technology that brings the benefits RIA/Virtual World and a mature programming model coupled with SOA Semiotics is waiting to create a magic.

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