SOA, Resiliency & Consiliency

Stephen DeAngelis

May 16, 2006

The blogger Wiggins (Opposed Systems Designs) recently discussed how a Service-Oriented Architecture can improve DoD stability operations using a Development-in-a-Box approach. It contains a nice mention of Enterra Solutions. Wiggins discusses several articles that underscore the fact that it is action (in the form of resources) not words that is needed to demonstrate that the DoD is serious about reorienting some of its forces into organizations that could support what Tom Barnett calls a System Administrator force. Wiggins writes:

One angle that none of these articles addressed, however, was the question of how to prepare for close collaboration with everyone from USAID to foreign governments to global NGOs and private businesses. Tom Barnett and John Robb have been thinking a great deal about (with Enterra Solutions, of course, leading the way in the private sector).

He goes on to discuss how important Service-Oriented Architectures are for making this kind of collaboration possible.

The big buzzword here is service oriented architectures (SOA). True, on-the-fly interoperation and adaptation requires services. Imagine USAID being able to use DoD logistics services, for example. Or suppose that during a humanitarian relief operation, a global guerilla group starts attacking the trucks delivering the aid shipments. Suddenly convoys need to be organized to protect the trucks. How to draw together all of the NGO, private businesses donating goods and the military resources? Use the pre-existing logistics and personnel services to assemble a service. The platform is the center of gravity where all the players can come together and get integrated. I was thinking a month or two ago about an “off-the-shelf” logistics toolkit for NGOs along these lines. Building such a toolkit (which is what Ratheyon’s DIB, described by Robb, would enable) would be a huge step towards improving our ability to deal with MOOTW and its what I’ve always imagined Barnett meant when he was talking about the US being the “Hub” of the SysAdmin force.

As Enterra Solutions envisions it, Development-in-a-Box is like an open IT architecture that offers any organization the ability to “plug & play” as their particular capabilities are required in the development process. Organizations must be free to decide for themselves when it is time to join and when it is time to depart from any particular operation. Otherwise, many of them simply wouldn’t play at all because they don’t want their organizations perceived as supporting any particular country’s foreign policy or any agenda besides their own.

On another topic, I would like to thank ZenPundit (Mark Safranski) for pointing out another interesting line of debate about resiliency. It comes from Curtis Weeks, Phatic Communion, who was responding to the topic from an earlier ZenPundit offering. Weeks took a few pot shots at one of my earlier posts and made some interesting points worth considering. As Safranski writes:

Curtis also pulls off a neat comparison of the operational tension between the meta-principles of resiliency and consiliency:

“Because the concept of consilience is still rather new to me, I’m more likely to resort to an etymological exploration of the term. Mark also dipped into the etymology in his post on consilience: resilience is a “bouncing back” (really, a jumping back) but consilience is a “jumping together.” Thus, when Steve DeAngelis says that resilient networks have people “willing to reach across those departmental lines themselves,” he is not talking about a resilient behavior but a consilient behavior, and he is talking about being able to operate across domains.”

My intuitive thought here is that resilience and consilience are not antipodes but complementary concepts in which some situations may arise where they are not entirely congruent for the actors struggling with a particular problem or crisis.

Both Safranski and Weeks are correct that resilience, strictly defined, refers only to a bouncing back. Unfortunately, I live in the business world where words are used to “sell” not just explain. In Enterra Solution sales pitches we try to make the point that resilience (i.e., bouncing back) is no longer sufficient if organizations want to thrive, not just survive, when faced with emerging 21st century challenges. I agree with Zafranski that the two terms, resiliency and consiliency, are complementary concepts. My problem is that I would spend more time explaining a concept like consilience than advancing my business interests were I to use the term. Even Weeks who, as informed as he is, admits the concept of consilience remains a new concept to him. That is one reason I started this blog, to further the discussion of resiliency (and consiliency) beyond glossy sales brochures. Thanks to both men for adding to the discussion.