Affects of Service Oriented Architectures and Web2.0 Phenomenon: Evolution or Disruptive Innovation
Wikipedia / O’Reiley defines Web 2.0 as the “second generation of Internet-based services” and while it is technically correct, it does little to communicate the significance of said advances. As used by its proponents, the phrase “Web 2.0” refers to one or more of the following:
- The transition of web-sites from isolated information silos to sources of content and functionality, thus becoming computing platforms serving web applications to end-users
- A social phenomenon embracing an approach to generating and distributing Web content itself, characterized by open communication, decentralization of authority, freedom to share and re-use, and “the market as a conversation”
- A more organized and categorized content
- A shift in economic value of the Web, possibly surpassing that of the dot com boom of the late 1990s
- A marketing-term used to differentiate new web-based firms from those of the dot-com boom, which (due to the bust) subsequently appeared discredited
- The resurgence of excitement around the implications of innovative web-applications and services that gained a lot of momentum around mid-2005
In the opening talk of the first Web 2.0 conference, Tim O’Reilly and John Battelle summarized key principles they believed characterized Web 2.0 applications
- the Web as a platform
- data as the driving force
- network effects created by an architecture of participation
- innovation in assembly of systems and sites composed by pulling together features from distributed, independent developers (a kind of “open source” development)
- lightweight business models enabled by content and service syndication
- the end of the software adoption cycle (“the perpetual beta”)
- software above the level of a single device, leveraging the power of The Long Tail.
Let’s take a quick look at one of the representatives of Web2.0 applications, LinkedIn. LinkedIn is a professional (social) networking platform that allows professionals to connect with each other in search of common connections, joint projects, business opportunities, etc. LinkedIn is a web-based application. The value of the service is extremely dependent on participation and the service is powered by the data that its members provide about themselves and their services. The business model is subscriptions, advertising and marketplace driven and the company provides only one product. Other applications representative of Web 2.0 include:
- Google AdSense – Monetization of content
- MySpace, LinkedIn – social and professional networking
- BitTorrent – peer-to-peear content distribution
- WIKI – user driven content management
- del.icio.us – bookmark sharing
- Blogger, Typepad, WordPress – content generation
- Digg – content syndication
- SalesForce.com – move of enterprise applications to the web
- Writely and Online Spreadsheets – web-based office applications
Innovations Service Oriented Architecture Service Oriented Architecture is one of the principal components of Web2.0 world and is the thinking behind some of the most innovative Web2.0 applications. In computing, the term service-oriented architecture (SOA) expresses a perspective of software architecture that defines the use of loosely coupled software services to support the requirements of the business processes and software users. In an SOA environment, resources on a network are made available as independent services that can be accessed without knowledge of their underlying platform implementation.( Barry, Douglas K., 2003. Web Services and Service-Oriented Architectures)
The convergence of SOA and Web 2.0, two highly interrelated trends that are very focused on:
- connecting people and systems together easily,
- making software and data available for reuse via services, and
- building new value upon the foundation of existing information resources and IT assets.
At the core of Service Oriented Architecture is the ability of one application to be built on the top of another application (service) and possesses the following characteristics:
- – interface abstraction
- – leverage of the existing systems in building new ones
- – ease of extending the functionality through “mashups”
- – an elegant implementation of data, logic and interface independence
Situational Software is a term for Rapid Software Development by non-programmers solving a particular business problem. Situational software allows for building such components/application as registration interface, task list, workflow and other functions without knowing any computer language syntax. This is a powerful new development as it exponentially extends the number of users who can develop their own application logic thus lowering the need for IT resources every and providing business functions with a much quicker way to accomplish their goals.
One of the most consistent trends on the Internet is the rise of open APIs and the applications built on top of them, known as mashups. Programmable Web currently lists over 300 APIs that can be used for everything from building Web sites on top of Google Maps to using Amazon’s powerful infrastructure APIs for storage and cluster computing. The underlying trend: The desire to easily remix the vast pool of high value data and services on the Web today into useful new solutions, at home and in the enterprise.
Mashups provide a way to combine several existing services with a new User Interface and possibly new logic to create a new application. Examples of mashups are services build on Google Maps, RSS news feeds, Stock information, etc.
Real Simple Syndication (RSS) exposes the data behind a particular news or data source in order to be syndicated by other applications or services. RSS has become incredibly popular in the last few years with nearly every news or information source exposing their content as RSS. This type of content packaging allows the content provider to easily get their wares outside of the immediate readership group and provides an inexpensive marketing mechanism.
Social Networking represents a modern trend in maintaining and developing personal and business relationships. Internet services like MySpace, Classmates.com, LinkedIn, Ecademy are redefining how people go about staying connected and looking for new connections. Proliferation of the social networking sites with increasing specialization tells a story about the acceptance of the concept.
Practically all the applications in the Web2.0 category are taking advantage of collaborative properties offered by the centralized data storage. Some of the most notable implications of this trend is the ability to “associate on the fly” instead of having rigid, pre-determined groups, ability to share and version control documents accessible to groups of people, and finally, ability to assign tasks to the group members related to projects or documents.
Asynchronous Communication (AJAX)
One thing that characterizes Web2.0 class of applications is the fact that they are easier to use then previous generation of applications and start behaving in ways similar to desktop software. One of the difficulties that web-based applications had to face was the “stateful” nature of internet applications. In other words, the page had to be reloaded every time there was a new query to the database. This experience fit well with transactional applications that didn’t require a lot of user interaction, but prevented introduction of more complex applications where user interaction was key.
This is now changes with a new paradigm in web-based development, known as AJAX. AJAX is a methodology and technology to enable asynchronous data exchange with the server without requiring page reloads. This approach results in significant speed and usability improvements found in a lot of Web 2.0 applications.
Office 2.0 applications represent the well known class of applications for word processing, spreadsheets, calendaring, email and collaboration shifted to the instead or in addition to being installed on the personal computers.
Office 2.0 represents freedom from the tyranny of installing software and updates, remembering where you keep your data and your programs (it’s all in the cloud with Office 2.0), and dealing with pesky things like admin rights, software versions, virus scanning, and more. Though browser-based software still has its limitations (like what happens when the server is down or you don’t have a connection), it’s increasingly clear that the network is going to become the pre-eminent location for most meaningful business software, if it hasn’t happened already. (Dion Hinchcliffe, Blog)
Web 2.0 in the Enterprise Enterprise computing is far more complex than personal computing. It includes legacy environments, innumerable vendors, mismatched data sources, stringent regulations and far flung users. While Web 2.0 can deliver genuine advantages for both business users and consumers, the real “Enterprise 2.0” will encompass a far broader and more complex vision. (M.R. Rangaswami, The Birth of Enterprise 2.0)
One company that’s leveraging the SOA in the enterprise to the fullest is San Francisco based Salesforce.com. Salesforce.com has recently announced it’s Apex platform basically providing IT departments with ready to use platform for building logic and tying to legacy systems with seamless integration with it’s Customer Relationship Management functionality as well as any other partner driven applications.
Impact of Web 2.0 and Service Oriented Architecture (SOA)
The impact of Web2.0 and SOA is going to be very significant on a variety of industries.
With the advent of Service Oriented Architecture, Situational Software and Mashups, creation of applications is becoming faster, cheaper and available to a much wider audience. This phenomenon has a potential to reduce the specialized IT workforce required to churn out often redundant, lower-level code and bring the emphasis on creating business logic by those who possess immediate domain expertise.
Acceptance of Service Oriented Architecture inside the enterprise is allowing said enterprise to deploy software solutions much quicker, thus providing a competitive and productivity advantage. With this come shorter IT development cycles and more creativity in developing and utilizing applications. It’s likely that the days of huge, monolithic ERP software applications are counted as each department is striving to deploy what’s best for its needs without being stuck with a global roll-out which can take years to accomplish.
New web-based office applications such as Google Calendar, Writely, on-line spreadsheets and on-line Wiki’s are making it possible for the user to enjoy much the same benefits brought to them by current Microsoft Office applications, for free or at a much lesser price, while providing an extra layer of functionality through collaboration. This trend will allow more and more underprivileged societies to participate in digital economies and will provide an extension to the office application for those wishing to collaborate.
Blogs (RSS) are providing a way for everyday people, specialists and companies to distribute information without needing to be associated with a news source. Whether done for marketing, public relations or fun, blogs are becoming a great mechanism for knowledge management and dissemination changing the way people go about getting information to improve their lives, careers, businesses, etc…
This brings us back to the main question of this paper, namely “is Software Oriented Architecture a natural continuation of the existing technologies with minimal effect on the underlying industries or does it represent a disruptive innovation”.
Clayton Christensen defines disruptive innovation or disruptive technology as a technological innovation, product, or service that eventually overturns the existing dominant technology or product in the market. A new-market disruptive innovation is often aimed at non-consumption, whereas a lower-end disruptive innovation is aimed at mainstream customers who were ignored by established companies. Sometimes, a disruptive technology comes to dominate an existing market by either filling a role in a new market that the older technology could not fill, or by successively moving up-market through performance improvements until finally displacing the market incumbents”
If we were to look at the innovations that Web2.0 and Service Oriented Architectures are introducing and apply the definition above to gauge the disruptiveness factor, we would find that most of the innovations listed here indeed qualify as disruptive:
On what basis?
Traditional or Software Encyclopedias
Cost, Easier to use, universally accessible
Online Word Processors & Spreadsheets
Cost, adds new area of functionality (collaboration)
Microsoft SharePoint; Web sites
Cost, adds new area of functionality (content management)
Cost, available to users who weren’t served before
Cost, fill role old technology couldn’t fill
Social and Business Networking Applications
New, fills the role old technology couldn’t fill
IT departments, small consultants
Cost, fills the role old technology couldn’t fill
Software as a Service (SaaS)
Traditional Software Applications
Fills the role old technology couldn’t fill
Banks and Credit Cards
Cheaper, more convenient
With Wikipedia is rapidly gaining popularity, and while the opponents argue about the accuracy of information on this open source information resource, it’s definitely eating fast into traditional and software encyclopedia market.
(Traffic statistics in reach per million internet users, Alexa)
Online calendars, word processors and spreadsheets eliminate the cost of having to purchase Microsoft Office applications, while providing collaboration capability not found in lower-end office applications.
(Online Calendar Application from Google)
Salesforce.com, a web-based CRM/ERP solution offering quick deployment options to corporations in addition to a much palatable pricing when compared to the traditional stalwarts like Oracle and SAP, has signed up over 100,000 corporate customers in less then 5 years on the market.
Conclusion Web2.0 and Service Oriented Architectures are having a tremendous effect on the world around us, specifically how we collaborate, how we communicate and how we innovate.
Web2.0 is changing the way software is designed and developed. Gone are the carefully planned software cycles. After the first version of the software is opened to public, the functionality grows continually in short incremental updates and the value grows proportionately to the usage.
What’s even more important, however, is that they are becoming a threat to a lot of established firms and technologies. The largest end-user operating system vendor Microsoft is under a threat as a lot of its Windows system services become unnecessary due to the tasks being transferred to the network layer. Media reporting has to reinvent itself to compete with a cheaper albeit less dependable source of news, the bloggers. Software development organizations are facing a threat from new breed of service based applications. Large software powerhouses, like Oracle and SAP, are under siege from the new entrants into the ERP space with the most well-known of them, Salesforce.com, reinventing the business models and proving to be extremely effective at winning the market share away from the traditional ERP vendors.
SOA applications in general have a tremendous capacity to change the landscape of many industries through changes in the product development lifecycles, harnessing innovation and introduction of the new business models.
The large incumbent software companies and media conglomerates are understanding the threats and opportunities provided by the SAO/Web2.0 generation of products and services as evidenced by a few high-profile acquisitions (Siebel by Oracle, MySpace by Newscorp, JotSpot by Google) and in-house development of competing SAO applications (Microsoft Office Live, SAP hosted services) The question remains whether the incumbents are flexible enough in their business models to be able to embrace the SAO movement or will the new entrants be able to capture large markets with the new SAO/Web2.0 technologies. Bibliography:
Leveraging the convergence of IT and the next generation of the Web, Dion Hinchcliffe
The Birth of Enterprise 2.0, M.R. Rangaswami
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