Customer Reaction

By eweek  |  Posted 2004-02-25 Email Print this article Print

What has customer reaction been to this SOA message? Its very interesting. Thereve been two experiences. Weve been doing this Web services stuff for almost four years. So it used to be that when we went in we would have to explain Web services. Wed tell them about the specs and what we were doing. Thered be a very heavy education aspect to that.
When we talk to customers now and we describe service-oriented architecture they say, "Yeah, were already doing that." And so its a very different world. And I cant conclude that its because they now understand Web services completely. I think its more that were being driven to this as an inevitable way of building these systems and these customers have concluded that all by themselves. That does not mean they have in place all the software they need to do this. It means they have begun to think about their systems in an SOA manner. Asking how do you bridge these different sorts of systems. "Heterogeneous" is a big word for saying "different."
Have you noticed whether its translated to increased sales? Well, I dont know that I can say that anybody has come in and bought an IBM system strictly because of SOA. I dont know that anybodys said, "Thank you, Ill buy five copies of WebSphere because I like IBM SOA." When we talk to customers, its far more concrete than that. Its more, What problem are you trying to solve? How do our products work together? How can we work with you to provide services to do what you want to do? Its more reflected through saying IBM understands Web services and IBM understands SOA, we can provide this value to you.
So in that sense I think what is clear to customers is we get it. IBM gets it in the products and in the services. So I cant pull out the SOA revenue from things like that. But I would say from the general picture, if you look at WebSpheres position in the marketplace relative to BEA, the type of mindshare and leadership weve built over the last few years around these concepts has translated because of things like Web services and because of SOA to some degree. I cant measure exactly what that is, but Im confident it has translated to superior market share for WebSphere in comparison to its competitors. Have you noticed that SOA is beginning to appear in RFPs [requests for proposals] and stuff like that? Some of them, yeah. Certainly Web services are. And SOA is one of those things that if Web services shows up then SOA does as well. So those types of things show up all the time—support for SOAP, support for WSDL [Web Services Description Language] and things like that. I think were in a transition point where were going to see it show up in new and different ways. Were going to see it show up when people talk more and more about systems management in general. I think were going to see it show up more and more when we talk about the various collaborative features we have, because a lot of the back-end stuff we have like WebSphere Portal actually uses Web services under the covers. So I think SOA shows up pretty regularly in terms of what we call process integration by virtue of direct Web services support, but also the way we implement SOA with WebSphere MQ and the WebSphere MQ brokers and things like that. They all play as well. The types of things weve been doing on the messaging side of the house, all those things are critical parts of IBMs SOA story. I asked because I saw a recent policy statement from the state of Massachusetts that specified an SOA as the target for future acquisitions. Yeah, that makes sense. And thats an architectural view of the world, which means that all these things we talked about have to be there. I want to also emphasize that the SOA story is not just Web services, there are other components. So the standardization of the connector architecture within Java means that youre going to be able to work in a far more standard way with the different pieces of enterprise software you need to interact with. Thats one component of what were trying to do. The general notions around messaging that people have been doing all play into this. At this point I also want to mention a lot of people like to come up with litmus tests if you will. So I can describe SOA in terms of distributed computing, hence requirements on how the different pieces talk together and how you manage them and security and things like that. When we talked three years ago about Web services I was fairly liberal in terms of saying, well, if youre doing this type of thing youre playing in the Web services world. Right now, though, I think were far more precise in talking about what it means to do Web services. It typically means somewhere down in the bowels of what youre doing youre using SOAP or WSDL. And then we can expand that. And every year that goes by, the definition and the litmus test becomes more and more precise. The Web Services Interoperability Organization [WS-I] is critical to that sort of thing. So with Web services were advancing to the point where you can be far more specific. Youre doing real Web services or youre not. With SOA right now, I think the big picture here is pretty clear about the notions of interfaces, the notion of true distributed computing, the notions of being able to say if Im interacting with you and youre doing .Net and Im doing a service-oriented architecture. If I have to know youre doing .Net, you lose—because youre not playing in the game right here. Youre still somehow pushing what is proprietary technology out to the forefront. So to use your example of the state of Massachusetts, part of what theyre saying is while we will obviously buy particular technology from vendors, when were talking about the way our systems interact among the systems we have in-house and the other systems we need to touch, that proprietary stuff must remain in the background. Distributed computing has got to be there. The notion of being standards driven has to be there. Sure, theyre going to look and say, "Does IBM provide a better implantation?", but its the question of these interface points that are what people are looking at for SOA. Next page: Legacy technologys role in SOA.


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