However, even if the SLA issue was neutralized, businesses would still need to relinquish some control over data in order to gain the value of participating in the IT services-economy. This last point is currently a key impediment to businesses rushing to embrace the Cloud.
Let’s return to the point made earlier regarding when an SLA may or may not be required, and let’s call this the demand spectrum. Again, on the one end is low demand, which may require no SLA at all and on the other end is mission-critical, which requires expensively negotiated SLA.
Based on this spectrum, it would seem that the most likely candidates for applications deployed without an SLA will be those for which there is little to no penalization for lack of availability. What types of applications correspond to this classification? Emerging SaaS applications with few customers, social networking applications (e.g., Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter), marketing websites and public service websites (e.g., local, state and Federal government). Essentially, this is the same market for hosting, so the advent of SOA and Cloud computing does nothing to foster the rise of an IT services-based economy regarding these candidates.
With regard to the mission-critical end of the spectrum, in order for an IT services-based economy to move toward commoditization it needs to remove the reliance upon expensive, complex negotiated contracts. The rise of Cloud computing is fostering many more vendors offering computing resources as a service, which is driving costs down, but many of these vendors don’t have the required infrastructure to ensure compliance with a mission-critical SLA.
This brings us to the big question, “What do SOA and Cloud computing bring to the table with regard to fostering an IT services-based economy?” The answer, for now, is vision and technology advancement. Unfortunately, in order for the IT services-based economy to reach mainstream, we will most likely require tort reform, policy changes and more precedents in legal cases to help ensure the rights of service consumers. That said, the introduction of SOA and Cloud computing today is laying the groundwork for a future commodity market.
In the interim, businesses should focus on leveraging SOA internally as a means of preparing for a possible launch into the Cloud. This effort is complex and will most likely take time to complete, allowing for the Cloud to mature. Internal IT organizations can also benefit from developing an IT services-based economy within their own businesses as it will provide the agility the businesses needs to optimize IT expenditures and leverage emerging Cloud options as they arise.
JP Morgenthal is a leading independent IT architecture consultant in the Washington, DC region who focuses on enterprise architecture, SOA, BPM and cloud computing. He is an authority on XML, Java, SOA, EAI and EII. He has written three books on integration, the most recent Enterprise Information Integration: A Pragmatic Approach.