IBM Stakes SOA Claim

By Renee Boucher Ferguson  |  Posted 2006-04-04

IBM Stakes SOA Claim

In the scheme of all things SOA, IBM is staking a huge claim. The company announced April 3 eight new products and 20 product enhancements—all geared toward helping companies implement a service-oriented architecture.

The biggest story for IBM is its breadth of software currently available. Where its honing in on SOA is around component reusability, process integration and services governance—key strengths in SOA that play to IBMs humongous portfolio of WebSphere, Tivoli, DB2, and Rational products.

By expanding its product road map to embrace SOA, IBM is tapping a methodology on the move.

"Its our view at IBM that [as an industry] weve reached an important inflection point. Its less around gadgets and more about how technology gets applied," said Steve Mills, senior vice president and Software Group executive at IBM, in Armonk, N.Y. "We believe in a world now thats not technology-led. Its about business process and process integration. Companies are going to have to keep pace."

Click here to read about IBMs strategic alliance with Cognos to jointly develop, market and sell SOA products.

The company is investing "a large amount of money"—in excess of $1 billion a year, according to Mills—around SOA technology, training and support. With that, IBM is anticipating double-digit growth across its entire Software Group product line and global services organization.

On the software side IBM has set five "entry points" for companies considering SOA: people, processes, information, application integration, and reusable components that customers can expose as common services and use across common processes.

With this theme in mind, Robert LeBlanc, general manager of WebSphere, detailed a slew of new and enhanced software offerings to support SOA.

On the people-centric note, IBM announced the 6.0 version of its WebSphere Portal that enables users to "leverage SOA and start building services to connect," said LeBlanc. New application templates help users to deploy and modify an SOA architecture, and to deploy applications that are integrated with the portal. An orchestrated workflow capability is being integrated into 6.0 to manage human interaction in a process, or "people flows," while integration with WebSphere Process Server will help manage business process flows. A front-end tool kit for AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) has been added to help developers build more interactive Web pages.

To support processes, IBM announced upgrades to its WebSphere Business Modeler and Business Monitor products to help users "take action, and provide the real-time capabilities to manage processes," said LeBlanc. New features in Business Monitor, for example, include business alerts, links to third-party reports and scorecards to track the status and metrics of projects.

On the information front, IBM upgraded two industry frameworks for SOA—Banking and Insurance—and integrated those with master data management capabilities to enable a single view of customer data. The Banking Information FrameWork and Insurance Application Architecture models come with a set of processes, workflows and "activities" designed to help users re-engineer existing processes.

To better enable application integration and component reuse, IBM announced the 6.1 version of its WebSphere Application Server and 6.0 version of WebSphere Commerce. The application server has a boatload of upgrades including Session Initiation Protocol servlets for added applications—voice, video and instant messaging—to a services-based architecture. A new Installation Factory tool cuts the installation process to one step, according to IBM. WebSphere Commerce includes upgrades for a consistent view of a customer across sales channels, and new transaction development and management capabilities.

At the same time LeBlanc said IBM continues to enhance all its connectivity products, from WebSphere Enterprise Service Bus to the Message Broker.

Next Page: An interoperable Web services registry and repository.


Probably the most significant product announcement, however, is IBMs new WebSphere Services Registry and Repository, a system that not only manages the meta data and information around the services that a company builds and deploys—including service end points, service-level quality, and service-level agreements—but it also enables interoperability across multiple registries and repositories.

"The most recent [SOA] holes IBM is filling are with the registry and repository," said Jason Bloomberg, an analyst with IT research firm ZapThink, in Waltham, Mass. "Theyre building out an SOA governance story—not just a product story, but product and services. At the center is the registry. This attacks one of IBMs key strengths—best practices, services and software. There are few vendors that can do this as well."

The key piece of information with IBMs Web services registry and repository is that it will be interoperable with other registries (as they become available). Both SAP and Oracle, the worlds largest and second-largest business applications developers respectively, are in development with their own Web services repositories. Given that the key to Web services is to have other Web services to integrate with, the interoperability among registries—SAP will register its services; Oracle will register its services, and so on throughout the software industry—is critical.

Another key aspect to IBMs SOA approach, particularly when it comes to Web services, is the componentization of its own applications. The idea is that as IBM breaks its applications down into functional parts, those components will be available as reusable services. This work has been ongoing in IBMs Software Group for the past two years, and will help to solidify IBMs story around SOA—particularly given that the chief complaint against IBM has traditionally been that its software is not well-integrated.

"IBM is actually remarkably comprehensive [in its SOA capabilities]," said Bloomberg. "Its really a question as to whether they can get the pieces to work together. This is always the story with IBM—buy a bunch of stuff and bring in consultants to tell you how it all works. But theyve been working really hard on componentizing applications to get all this to work together."

Given the breadth of IBMs offerings, the company has taken a sort of modulated approach to componentization, focusing on key areas like portal capabilities, breaking down functionality that appears in different product families.

The componentization piece will also help IBM build out its own story around software as a service—really the flip side to the same coin thats SOA.

The bottom line for IBM and Mills, however, is really bringing home the companys evolving message around SOA, according to Judith Hurwitz, president of Hurwitz and Associates.

"Theyre really painting a picture of what theyre doing in SOA, and how fundamental it is moving forward," said Hurwitz. "If you look at what IBM is doing with SOA—looking at both people and philosophy as a way to create the reuse of an existing infrastructure and application components—its a way to rethink development."

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