IBM Shifts Its SOA Initiative Up Into High Gear
by Mary Lou Roberts
SOA, or service-oriented architecture, is the wave of the future, if you believe the likes of IBM, Sun Microsystems, and Oracle. SOA is touted to be the way to integrate applications across the enterprise. By breaking these applications into reusable, componentized units of work ("services"), the goal is to piece them together across diverse platforms and databases to better and to more quickly respond to changing business needs.
IBM announced on September 13 that it is beefing up its SOA offerings in a big way. The emphasis of the announcement, of course, is on "new software, services, and an expanded partner initiative to help clients manage business processes" with SOA. But one needs only to read further in the press release's headline to learn that much of the emphasis is on WebSphere enhancements: "New WebSphere Software is Foundation for SOA."
Specifically, the IBM announcement features its "SOA foundation software" that includes the following components:
- WebSphere Business Modeler: A tool that enables the modeling and design of process flow before deployment and complements SOA modeling capabilities of Rational Software Architect.
- WebSphere Integration Developer: An Eclipse-based application development tool that lets developers assemble SOAs, making it easy to "view IT as services that can be easily wired together to compose full business processes."
- WebSphere Enterprise Service Bus (ESB): To help in deployment. The ESB provides connectivity and integration for web-services applications and includes a new version of WebSphere Message Broker.
- WebSphere Process Server: Open standards-based software powered by the ESB that helps to simplify the integration of business processes and the movement of information between applications based on business rules.
- Enhancements to WebSphere Business Monitor: To help monitor business process performance and key performance indicators. Later this month, Tivoli will also be announcing new software to help in the management of performance and availability of SOA-based solutions.
Also included in the announcement are new services that IBM will provide through IBM Global Services (IGS) to help customers implement SOA:
- SOA Governance will help companies keep SOA initiatives, architectures, and investments aligned to business goals.
- SOA Industry Teams are aligned to key verticals (communications, distribution, financial services, industrial, public sector, and small and medium business) will help customers ease deployment and will tap into the expertise of IBM Business Consulting Services "to help customers use IBM's WebSphere software as the foundation for SOA."
- IGS will use the SOA Foundation "to deliver its upcoming Common Services Delivery Platform (CSDP), a repository of reusable assets, based on IBM software and third party applications that will execute specific business processes such as claims processing or inventory management."
- A free service, the IBM Client Architectural Readiness Evaluation, will help clients review business and IT initiatives and architectural alignment.
Rounding out the SOA announcement was an expansion of the SOA Business Partner Community, delivered through IBM's PartnerWorld Industry Networks, that offers new benefits and resources to participants who already include several ISVs such as Bowstreet, Cognos, Lawson Software (and its soon to be acquired Intentia International), Seagull Software, and SSA Global.
During the announcement teleconference, IBM general manager for WebSphere, Robert LeBlanc, touted the accomplishments of office supply giant Staples, an early adopter of SOA that worked together with IBM using WebSphere to build a "single, seamless view of their customer set across multiple channels," and they did it on an IBM iSeries midrange server, but the lessons Staples learned can be applied to Unix machines, of course.
Bowstreet is one of the already-signed-up partners in IBM's SOA Partner Initiative. Rose O'Donnell, vice president of engineering, notes that Bowstreet has worked closely with IBM on a number of fronts with this initiative, "the most obvious being Portal. Portal is a natural to fit with SOA architectures, so we will continue to be a close partner."
Kim Addington, executive vice president of Seagull, which is signed up with the IBM SOA Partner Initiative program, echoes the sentiments of many by pointing out that this announcement by IBM goes a long way toward giving credibility to the SOA concept. "In one sense, IBM is our market-maker. So IBM's backing legitimizes the SOA concept and helps to grow the market opportunity for companies like Seagull Software. IBM's sweeping endorsement of SOA is good for our niche." Addington does fear, however, that the cost and complexity of WebSphere can be an inhibitor for small and medium shops using any platform. "This announcement doesn't yet solve that problem, but the promise of integrated SOA technologies can definitely make some of the complexity go away."
Jared Rodriguez, founder of Skyway Software, believes that IBM's thrust "validates SOA and is a natural evolution of software development similar to the component base evolution that has been taking place in the manufacturing sector for the last hundred years. This should be of interest to customers since IBM, along with SAP, BEA, and others, to name a few, are moving in a direction of reusable, service-based components based on industry standards."
The underlying implementation--in IBM's case, WebSphere--is not important, says Rodriquez. "The infrastructure components will be come les important and more commodities, which will allow organizations to implement business solutions and not worry or care about the underlying infrastructure."
Certainly, then, IBM is setting the stage, along with its chief competitors in both hardware and software, to make SOA a battlefield for new business. And Big Blue's commitment to win this was seems quite serious.
Mary Lou Roberts, a 35-year veteran of the information systems industry, is a new contributor to IT Jungle. In addition to her work as a reporter in the iSeries space, she has spent her career as a marketing and communications professional working exclusively with information technology publications and companies. She can be reached at WriterNewf@aol.com.