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SOA is not dead (and shouldn’t be)

API Management Solutions
API Management Solutions

UPDATED 11/13/18

“SOA is dead.” Those famous words are from back in 2009. Read past the first three words, and you see “Long live services.” Services continue to be important, including their more recent incarnation as lightweight REST APIs. And, far from being dead, the principles of SOA—service reuse, a central registry of services and loose coupling—are more important than ever.

SOA is not dead

Since then, we’ve seen SOA, the concept, continue to be widely embraced. As David Rubinstein of SD Times discussed in 2012 and InfoWorld’s David Linthicum in 2013, SOA, while not necessarily promoted with pomp and circumstance, is still alive and well, in everything from enterprise integration to Platform as a Service development platforms.

A few years ago, SOA Software changed their name, implying a transition away from promoting SOA. But as they noted, “Service Oriented Architecture remains a solid foundation for enterprises, and has diverged to include APIs and microservices.” Similar points have been made around APIs, notably that they are somehow “replacing” SOA at the heart of enterprise IT.

However, such statements miss the point altogether. First off, APIs are a technology. SOA is an architecture that includes APIs. It is a framework for IT that provides the principles needed to design and govern applications. While SOA helps to guide business processes, APIs help deliver features and functionality. In this way SOA represents an entire IT strategy—APIs meanwhile is a function. As Randy Heffner of Forrester noted, the demise of SOA is overstated, with only two or three percent of organizations who try SOA, deciding to give up. As he highlights, APIs will extend the business agility SOA already provides.

Taking it one step further

Taking this one step further, there is no need for an organization to choose between SOA and APIs. Smart enterprise architects actually use SOA principles to manage their APIs. These principles include a central repository of API definitions (like our API Catalog, part of the Axway API Portal), as well as loose coupling and service reuse. Here, at Axway, we work with a span of organizations to help them integrate APIs within their existing SOA framework.

In that respect, it would be crazy for an organization to abandon significant architectural investments in SOA for APIs. API Evangelist Kin Lane, in fact, shared a great story about how Amazon, a company at the forefront of enterprise innovation, “transformed internally into a service-oriented architecture” over several years. It would make no sense for Amazon to “kill” their SOA architecture. The reality is that Amazon is a classic example of a company which is successful with its Amazon Web Services (AWS) APIs while using SOA architecture. Its API and SOA strategies complement each other.

At Axway, we couldn’t be more fervent advocates for the use of APIs. They are and will continue to be at the heart of delivering innovative and powerful capabilities. However, as the API economy continues to grow, success for companies that embraced and use SOA will come in the form of API management that aligns with SOA principles. So, once and for all, let’s stop trying to “kill” SOA.

Read more about SOA in this article.

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