Mashups and SOA: The Last Mile

I love great analogies – they allow us to explain complex things in simple terms. I found a real gem today. Unfortunately I can’t find the blog post in which I read it. In the post, mashups were described as SOAs “last mile” (I’m paraphrasing here because I can’t remember the exact quote). I don’t think I’ve read a more succinct description of the relationship between SOA and mashups.

The “last mile” is a telecommunications term used to describe the section of a telecommunications line that runs from your nearest exchange to your home. I think this is a great analogy for mashups and SOA. Here’s why.

The telecommunications system is a complex thing – exchanges, switches, cables, satellites and who knows what else. Thankfully, all of this complexity is hidden from the end user. We use the telephone network every day through a simple ‘user interface’ – the telephone. Most of us don’t know (or even care) how it all works. For the end user, the true value of the telecommunications network is realised through the ‘last mile’ of wire that connects the telephone to the telecommunications network.

SOAs are similarly complex – just like the telecommunications network, there’s plenty going on under the hood but if implemented properly, all of the SOA complexity is hidden from the users. And mashups may be the tangible thing that allows users to realise the full value of the infrastructure and plumbing that is SOA.

Without the telecommunications network, the telephone is a useless gadget. Conversely, without the telephone that sits on your desk, the telecommunications network is a nebulous concept without a practical use.

I believe that mashups need a proper SOA foundation to realise their full potential. I also believe that building a SOA that doesn’t offer tangible benefits that the business can see and touch is a pointless exercise.

PS: If anyone knows the post I’m talking about please comment below or email me.


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