SOA 2. huh?

Just when we'd started to figure out SOA, along comes SOA 2.0. Analysts at Gartner Research are using the latest industry buzzword to differentiate between what it calls ''traditional'' service-oriented architectures, which rely on the client-serve model and direct calls from one piece of software to another, and an event-driven type of SOA that is much more closely tied to business components with alerts and notifications. Think order processing systems, hospital admissions processes, and bank transactions.

Oracle Corporation is embracing the new moniker in a big bear hug and rubbing it up against its Fusion middleware products. ''SOA 2.0 is the term that we're using to talk about the combination of service-oriented architecture and event-driven architecture,'' Steve Harris, vice president of Oracle Fusion middleware, said at the recent JavaOne developer show.

But analyst Neil Ward-Dutton (one of the two Neils at UK-based Macehiter Ward-Dutton) isn't feeling so chummy about the term. In his May 24 blog he writes: ''I'm so angry about it I can't work out where to start!'' Macehiter wonders what the emergence of an SOA 2.0 designation might mean to the work of the OASIS SOA technical committee, which is currently developing a reference model for SOA.

The purpose of the OASIS project, according to that standards org, is ''to address SOA being used as a term in an increasing number of contexts and specific technology implementations. Sometimes, the term is used with differing - or worse, conflicting - understandings of implicit terminology and components. This Reference Model is being developed to encourage the continued growth of different and specialized SOA implementations whilst preserving a common layer of understanding about what SOA is.''

Mark Little, director of standards and development manager for the Transactions and ESB projects for JBoss, positively fumes in his May 22 blog: ''[I]f you're an analyst firm looking to stand out from the crowd I can understand throwing a lot of new buzzwords at a wall and seeing which ones stick! But for the rest of us living in the real world, it has no meaning at all. Despite all the hype, I think we're all agreed on what SOA means: it's an architectural approach to building loosely coupled applications. Companies have been 'doing SOA' for many years, even before the term was coined, using technologies as diverse as CORBA and JMS. Think of it as a pattern, or an architectural approach in the same was as distributed object-oriented systems. It has its place in any good architect's toolbelt and we're finally coming to grips with it as an industry.''

Little points out that the notion of ''SOA 2.0'' borders on the dangerously confusing, because it mixes up architecture with implementation detail.

It remains to be seen how useful giving an architectural approach a version number will be. For the moment, I have to agree that it seems, well, a little nuts. As both Ward-Dutton and Little put it, WTF?