James Governor's Monkchips

On Ripping Off Ronan Bradley: SOA and The Goldilocks meme

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Mea culpa. It seems I have been stealing people’s ideas.
I was writing about the granularity of web services the other day when I had this great idea: its a Goldilocks thing! The granularity of a service in a service oriented architecture needs to be not to cold, and not too hot, but just perfect. As I said at the time:
Granularity of service is very much a 3 Bears issue – this service is too granular, this service is not granular enough, ah this service is just right in granularity.
Something was bothering me about the provenance of my 3 bears idea though. I could hear a buzzing. “Ah don’t worry about it, J”….  I then continued the granularity theme on a post about SOA on the mainframe blog.
That blog kicked off a response from ZapThink – and guess what – the Three Bears theme resurfaced. Step forward Ronald Schmelzer:
We all know the tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears: the story of an interloper that seemed to want her chair, porridge, and bed just so, despite her invasion of ursine privacy. Just as one-size-fits-all food or accommodations could not sate Goldilocks, so too are early proponents of Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) realizing that they must size their Services just so in order to meet their pressing business problems so that they can maximize reuse and minimize unnecessary expense.
At that point I was thinking what the hey? Wasn’t Goldilocks “my” meme? I wondered why Ron didn’t cite it. But of course – maybe he never read the original monkchips post…Then the bee started buzzing around in my head. Someone else used the three bears meme first. Who was it? Was it Ron? Was I lifting from him?
Google, as it so often does, came to the rescue.
The original provenance came, it seems, from this opinion piece by Ronan Bradley, CEO of integration specialists PolarLake. Except he wasn’t talking about granularity of services, he was talking about what enterprise service bus to choose.
Lets imagine Goldilocks, the senior software architect, who knows all about fairy stories, but is all grown up from her days tasting porridge. With integration projects eating up two-thirds of her overall IT budget, and the costs of maintaining and evolving integration solutions spiralling out of control, she has known for quite a while that she has to change the way her integration projects were currently designed and delivered.
The oped piece is a clever piece of rhetoric, masquerading as a new take on a children’s story. Don’t you just love allegory in modern marketing?
And so our story is complete. ESBs, like bears, come in many shapes and sizes, but the three listed above provide a useful categorization, and one that accurately reflects the current state of play. I think the realization that all ESBs are not the same is particularly important. Until recently it has been fashionable to predict all sorts of outcomes – from extinction to world domination – for “the ESB”. But the truth is more complex. Different families of ESB may have very different futures indeed.  
You should probably read his take on IBM’s ESB strategy to help with context.
So apologies then to Ronan Bradley. It seems like someone’s been eating your porridge.
And if this isn’t an exemplary blogosphere story I don’t know what is.


  1. Turns out — I didn’t even notice your Goldilocks reference until AFTER I wrote the piece 😉 And I hadn’t even read Ronan’s commentary either. Maybe just great minds think alike? Seriously, tho, when you think about things being “just right”, the only metaphor that comes to mind is Goldilocks. Is there another one maybe that’s less overused?

  2. its just the hive mind in action. wait til your read Duane Nickull’s Goldilocks piece…

  3. I bet lots of customers and vendors alike would have loved to see RedMonk have an open dialog (aka merger discussions) with ZapThink. This could be the start of bringing even more integrity to the analyst world…


  4. holy crap – merger discussions? that’s a bit strong isn’t it james, even by your shoot from the hips standard. why doesnt hartford merge with axa?

  5. I would also observe that the marketing for an EAI product called Sagavista, in the late 90s, had as its theme, “The Fairy Tale has come true”. It’s been around..

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