Yesterday in Portland at OSCON’s Cloud Summit I spoke about major emerging trends in business, IT, and the Web. Specifically, I explored how Enterprise 2.0, Cloud Computing, and something known as Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) have converged on top of the same “problem space” to become the essential fabric for how we solve the business problems in our organizations.
At first, none of these topics might seem mainstream to the lay businessperson. Nothing could be further from the truth and most of us are impacted by this every day. For years the rate of improvement in information technology in the business world has been falling farther and farther behind the rest of the world. Application backlogs and unmet needs are common, while the centralized nature of most IT departments makes it clear that only so much is possible, even as the rate of technological change grows. I want to be clear that the many hard-working people in the IT trenches are not at fault, it’s largely due to the archaic model for how we apply technology to business.
The real purpose of my talk was to examine how much we’ve learned about how we use modern network technologies today to achieve business objectives. As an industry, we recognized the importance of interconnected systems just over a decade ago and Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) was launched as a top-level business initiative in many organizations around the world. The goal was to systematically reap the benefits of easy interoperability between our business systems, turning our applications into reusable platforms, and drive innovation by fostering unintended consequences that create significant new business value. It largely didn’t happen for reasons that are much clearer now but weren’t then.
Pulling Together The Threads: Cloud Computing, Enterprise 2.0, and SOA
While we were seeking the best way to realize SOA, and often having a very hard time of it, spending billions globally in the process, the Web sped ahead and began to discover many of the solutions to the challenges of opening and connecting our systems. This was true both technically and from a business perspective. Among many innovations, the Web went on to discover the power of Open APIs, which provided a successful model for large-scale SOA. The Web also became social and primarily user-generated, identifying powerful new models for driving both distribution and consumption that culminated in a global remaking of how we communicate. Along the way, it also became clear that social computing wasn’t just another communication paradigm, it was an entirely new way to think about how we relate to our business, data, and ourselves.
My premise is that the Web (and the full realization of it as a source of data, services, applications, and people being referred to as “the cloud”) has become our Global SOA. It’s the world’s most effective example of SOA with countless API providers, hundreds of millions of data creators (us), and an ecosystem of data that can be accessed and made sense of with tools such as search and analytics. This is in stark contrast to the enterprise today where, as I point out in my presentation, “Most of the vast repositories of data in enterprises is not accessible in any practical manner by most people“.
There is where Enterprise 2.0 comes in, with an emergent vision of a federated knowledge ecosystem that is fundamentally open and social (since that is the communication method we’ve essentially adopted globally today). Participation, openness, and self-service are some of the intrinsic elements of Enterprise 2.0 and why it’s a key part of the Social Business vision. It is now likely that social tools will ultimately be the dominant model for how we work together in the business world, and they are deeply affected by both cloud computing and SOA. You can view my slides above in Slideshare for a more detailed walk-through of my thinking and opinions on this topic.