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Here is an interesting little conundrum that is probably worth a straw poll of some sort among our readers. A simple observation was put to me recently by HP software pre-sales manager Dave Clarke, which suggested that the greater the number of "pure play" applications packages an enterprise employs, the greater the percentage of total IT resources that will need to be committed to the maintenance and support budget.

What's more, it then becomes at least theoretically possible for an IT department to introduce sufficient packages to completely use up the IT budget in maintenance and support costs, leaving nothing for the development of the specific applications code the enterprise requires.

Far fetched? Well, possibly, but there is an argument that the advent of web services applications, together with SOA-enabled applications and a growing multitude of new, specialist SOA infrastructure tools and sub-systems, means that enterprises are at severe risk of overloading themselves with new "pure play" applications. This could easily reach the point where subsequent ongoing maintenance eats 100 per cent of the IT budget.

One of the issues with SOA, of course, is that management of ongoing maintenance and applications lifecycles is an integral component of the infrastructure fabric. But in practice, the level to which any pure play application integrates with an infrastructure management suite can be a significant variable, and there is always the possibility that adding something like lifecycle management means adding yet more pure play applications to the maintenance list.

The trouble for enterprise IT departments is that pure play solutions are ideal at the time of specification and, probably, implementation. But the real point about SOA is not that it can provide a flexible, agile business management environment today – but next year as well, reliably and consistently. And the future development of pure play applications from different vendors have a bad habit of getting both out of step and pulling in different directions.

If the maths does end up meaning that IT budgets just get wasted on maintenance and support, there will be no resources left to exploit the agility the technology should theoretically provide. We'd love to hear from readers with genuine experience of this, one way or the other. ®

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