SO-A What

John Burrow, deputy commander of the Marine Corps Systems Command, may have put the brakes on the continued proliferation of the buzz phrase <em>de jour</em>: Service-Oriented Architecture, better known as SOA.

John Burrow, deputy commander of the Marine Corps Systems Command, may have put the brakes on the continued proliferation of the buzz phrase de jour: Service-Oriented Architecture, better known as SOA.

Speaking at the Naval IT Day conference on March 4, Burrow told an audience packed with vendors to detail in their presentations to him exactly what they mean when they put SOA into their presentations. Burrows said, "Though SOA comes with every presentation, I do not have a clear idea what SOA is. . . . Explain what it is."

I agree. I sit through at least one interview or presentation a week in which SOA is tossed around like Frisbees on a college campus. Now that Burrow has boldly forged the way, I have to admit that I have only a murky idea of what it means.

Every so often I check out the SOA explanation in "The Basics" section of Nextgov, but get bogged down about 800 words into the 1,500-word piece. I think Burrow and I both need a more succinct explanation, or maybe we should just ban the use of SOA altogether.

Although Burrow directed his remarks to vendors, I hope my friends at the Defense Information Systems Agency pay attention, because I consider DISA the biggest SOA sinner of all. In fact, I think DISA needs a SOA to tie together all references to SOA found in myriad DISA documents, RFPs, presentations and press releases from companies engaged in vital but quite confusing SOA work for DISA.

You think I'm kidding? Crank "DISA: and "SOA" into Google and you end up with more than 29,000 hits, including this gem:

The Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA), Net-Centric Enterprise Services (NCES) Program Management Office (PMO), in coordination with DISA's Defense Information Technology Contracting Organization (DITCO), is developing a strategy for acquiring the NCES Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) Foundation and Content Discovery and Delivery (CD&D) services. These NCES services facilitate the ability of the DoD to deploy interoperable service-based applications. Using multiple RFPs, the goal is to acquire the capabilities of these services to support the net-centric transformation of DoD warfighting, business and intelligence capabilities.

These capabilities will be acquired as loosely coupled services, and acquired as commercially managed services where feasible. When managed services is the alternative selected, options include hosting in a commercial service provider's or a Defense facility. In either case, the services provided will be governed by service level agreements (SLAs) between DISA and the service providers. The SOA Foundation and CD&D provide Defense with a core set of services that enable construction of Web-based business processes, e.g. Security, Mediation, capability to discover services, etc.

To paraphrase Burrow, does anyone really know what this means?

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