"Publication - is the Auction Of the Mind of Man" Emily Dickinson
Monday, 01 November 2004

David Chappell, in his latest newsletter , argues that Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) promotes software reuse far better than objects do. For him, object reuse usually fails for two reasons. First, in an evolving business environment it is difficult to come up with a good definition of a business object such as a customer. Second, software developers seem to catch the not-invented-here plague fairly easily.

I certainly agree with this.

One of my favorite questions when discussing object oriented design with students is to ask for the definition of a chair. Invariably, the answers will include legs. Then I ask them if an ottoman or a bean bag chair fits their definition. Coming up with good class definitions is hard. I have been involved in software development long enough to have frequently seen the not-invented-here syndrome.

He also argues that the best examples of reuse occur with applications such as PeopleSoft or SAP. SOA reuse resembles application reuse. I certainly agree with this as well.

But, in my opinion, the fundamental reason that reuse with SOA will be more frequent than with objects is that SOA reuse is loosely-coupled black box reuse, most object reuse is tightly-coupled white box reuse. SOA is a design pattern that has benefited from our struggles with object-oriented approaches.

When you treat a component as a black box you interact with it through its external properties, or as we say in the programming world, its interfaces. You do not have to understand how a fork is built or what it is composed of. If you do not like your two-pronged desert fork, you get a three-pronged fork to eat your peas. You do not try to modify the two-pronged fork. The real world is loosely coupled.

With inheritance you must understand the object's implementation. You must always be aware of the fragile base class problem. You can change the behavior of existing programs if you are not careful. This only reinforces the not-invented-here syndrome because it is perceived to be easier to write classes from scratch, than to try to understand another programmer's code. Objects are tightly coupled because they are connected through a stack and a linker/loader.

Modern object oriented practitioners have realized this. The design patterns community emphasizes composition/delegation over inheritance, and interfaces over implementation. You use the component through its interface treating it as a black box. Interfaces produce looser coupling.

SOA is a design pattern for building business process in the real world. It does not tell you how to architect your application. It does not provide an implementation. It does tell you to construct your services completely independent of each other. Services are independently deployed. Code or database tables are not shared between services. Services in a SOA interact through a loosely coupled interface that is defined as a series of messages.

SOA is a continuation in the large of what good object oriented designs have started to become: less emphasis on the classes, and more emphasis on the loose coupling provided by interfaces. Obviously objects provide the actual implementation, but that is not how the users of those implementations view them. They view them as black box interfaces.

Class frameworks such as J2EE and .NET have been successful. Both those frameworks, encapsulate stable, well-understood problems that the software world has been working on for over 50 years. Not only are the problems of business not well understood, the environment is quite dynamic. Services in a SOA are loosely coupled black boxes because they reflect the loosely coupled real world.

Monday, 01 November 2004 10:51:38 (Eastern Standard Time, UTC-05:00) | Comments [0] | All | Software Development#
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