IBM Kicks Off Service-Oriented Architecture Strategy

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Posted 2004-04-20

IBM Kicks Off Service-Oriented Architecture Strategy

IBM Corp. is slated to announce its service-oriented architecture (SOA) strategy Wednesday, including new services offerings as well as new products to support customers in developing and deploying SOAs, the company said.

Scott Cosby, IBMs director of WebSphere Business Integration product management, said IBM has worked closely with its customers over the past six to eight months on solidifying the services and products that are part of the new SOA focus.

"This is the first [announcement] in a multimonth effort over the next two quarters or so" related to the companys SOA strategy, Cosby said.

IBM defines an SOA as a collection of business processes that rely on reusable standard interfaces to integrate applications within a company as well as externally with customers, partners and suppliers.

"You have to be able to break down business processes such that they are aligned with what the business wants to do," Cosby said. "SOAs allow you to build off of these business processes and allow you to do so more quickly and easily."

BEA Systems says it is the leader in the SOA space. Click here to read more.

The three major themes of IBMs SOA strategy are to drive down costs, find more opportunities for growth and help transform organizations into on-demand businesses, Cosby said.

Thus IBM, through its IBM Global Services arm, is delivering a set of services intended to empower customers. The first, called IBM Assessments for Service-Oriented Architectures, helps customers assess the functional and technical aspects of moving to an SOA, Cosby said. The next service, Strategy and Planning for Service-Oriented Architecture, begins by identifying the customers objectives and ends with a plan for transitioning to an SOA.

Another new service IBM will offer is Application Renovation and Integration for Service-Oriented Architecture, which is for customers who want to expand their legacy systems into SOA environments. And the fourth new service is Component Business Modeling, which enables customers to break down their business according to the processes involved in running it.

Cosby said the services offerings were "driven largely by customer engagements; were rolling these out as IBM services offerings."

Click here to read an eWEEK interview with Bob Sutor, IBMs director of WebSphere infrastructure software, on why SOA is so important.

In addition, IBM is adding to its services capabilities by training more employees to be knowledgeable about SOAs and Web services.

"We have about 15,000 experts in Global Services who are well-skilled and knowledgeable about Web services," Cosby said. "And well be training another 35,000."

IBM also will hold an event next month in Toronto to teach its customers more about SOAs, Cosby said.

Next Page: A new product lets customers build and integrate applications in SOAs.

New Products

Adding to the services news, IBM also will introduce new products to support SOAs. The new WebSphere Business Integration Server Foundation product, featuring native support for the Business Process Execution Language (BPEL), enables customers to build and integrate applications in SOAs, Cosby said.

The WebSphere Business Integration Server Foundation supports the Common Event Infrastructure and the Java Developers Kit 1.4, and its tooling is based on the Eclipse open-source development framework.

In addition, the IBM WebSphere Studio Application Developer Integration Edition 5.1, which will be released at the same time, will enable developers to visually develop and deploy BPEL applications, Cosby said. "We want to make sure customers have all the tools and technologies to take advantage of service-oriented architectures," he said.

"IBMs solution is evolving with this announcement toward a more integrated platform based on a single runtime stack built on J2EE [Java 2 Enterprise Edition] and Web services standards," said Mike Gilpin, an analyst with Forrester Inc. of Cambridge, Mass.

"This is an important step along the road to unify the IBM solution onto that stack, which will culminate with its complete unification on the WebSphere stack about a year from now," Gilpin said. "In the meantime, this release places a greater proportion of IBMs solution on that unified platform, especially with its added sup-port for BPEL for business process management."

Meanwhile, New York-based Cendant Corp.—a major travel and real estate services firm that has standardized on IBM hardware and its WebSphere application server and DB2 database—said it also plans to use IBMs technology as the centerpiece of its SOA strategy, according to Bryan Harwood, director of platform architecture at the company.

Robert Wiseman, chief technology officer (CTO) at Cendant, said the company is developing an SOA framework based on IBMs technology. He said the IBM plan is appealing because "by defining the interfaces to the components, you ensure reusability of services across the organization."

Wiseman said Cendants services are hosted by IBM Global Services, but the move to SOA "is not something weve jumped into. Weve tried to stay ahead of the curve to help our customers keep maximizing their legacy systems." The move to Web services and SOAs was part of the companys roadmap, he said.

Wiseman said Cendant started out with an XML solution for integration and, two years ago, evolved that to Web services. "Weve taken that approach, and now were going to take it to a full SOA," he said.

"So, components are available and reusable throughout the organization," he said. But Wiseman said Cendants SOA transition will not be complete until the fourth quarter of this year.

Al Smith, CTO of the Adaptive Management Technology Office in Hewlett-Packard Co.s software organization, said, "We see some of the large ISVs using SOA as a design pattern. At HP, were focused on being able to manage those environments." Smith noted HPs acquisition of Talking Blocks as evidence that the company has been involved in the SOA space. Talking Blocks developed SOA infrastructure technology.

"It looks like IBM is going to drive middleware sales and more global services," Smith said. "In general, its a pretty good plan, but the most expensive part of it is the integration aspect. The more you implement SOA design patterns should translate into a cut in costs."

"Basically, IBM has gotten the SOA gospel and is really taking it to heart in the way they build their products and deliver their services from here on forward," said Ronald Schmelzer, an analyst with ZapThink LLC of Waltham, Mass.

"Rather than announcing a single product or service, this SOA announcement kicks off a major strategy for IBM around what they see is a combined effort from multiple product and service groups to meet the increasing demand for loosely coupled, distributed, standards-based computing that SOA represents."

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