Does a Services-Oriented Internet Make Sense?
By Bill Bittner, President, BWH Consulting
We have all had the experience, whether with the plumber who just can’t seem to fix the leak, the roofer who creates new leaks or the appliance guy whose only answer is “replace the unit.” The result is the same – either you continue to live with the problem, go to someone else, or fix it yourself.
Now the new paradigm for the internet is the “services-oriented architecture.” The concept is simple. Software packages that address specific problems will be catalogued on the internet and, by using standard interfaces, be accessible by processes designed to meet the user’s requirements.
For example, instead of each transportation application maintaining a database of highways and construction projects, they will be able to link to a “service provider” who will provide the latest information. The transportation application will be geared to the particular user’s requirements, but the status of the roads will be a generic service. Instead of being monolithic solutions developed by a single vendor, computer applications will become a combination of services provided by multiple vendors. This is where things become interesting.
I recently had my own real world experience trying to deal with multiple “service providers.” When I went to a broadband cable connection from dial-up, the improvement in speed was significant, but recently I began having problems accessing my email. The players in all this became: my browser and e-mail clients (Internet Explorer and Outlook); my security software (anti-virus and anti-spyware vendors); my hardware providers (switch and router); my cable company; my e-mail service provider (who was not my cable company); and of course myself and whatever options I had chosen for these various services when I installed them or signed up for them.
In the end, it appears my email problem was due to a bad cable modem, but the challenges I went through over the past three weeks to get to that conclusion would fill a book. Each vendor had a very logical explanation why the other guy had to be the problem.
A while back, I remember installing a new store polling application when, after several days of confusion, the operations manager literally locked the computer vendor, the polling hardware vendor, and the phone company representative in the computer room and refused to let them out until the thing was working.
The basic question is whether there is a risk that real time problems in a service oriented environment will become “unsolvable.” Could it reach a point where there are so many individual providers that when the “rubber band breaks” no one has the global perspective necessary to solve the problem?
As the internet opens up more options for services and the reliability of those services becomes critical, there is going to have to evolve some kind of rating system. Almost like the eBay rating system for sellers, service users are going to need a way to identify the “good” services from the “bad.” Maybe this can be a new role for the Better Business Bureau or the various standards bodies that define product requirements. The goal would be to prevent the failures or, if they occur, to at least have the individual services document the failure sufficiently so that all involved have access to the data needed to resolve it.
Moderator’s Comment: What do you see as the pros and cons for “services-oriented architecture,” as described by the author, in a business setting? Is
there a significant risk that real time problems will become “unsolvable” in a service-oriented environment? –
Bill Bittner – Moderator