The company, which has had a U.S. base for the past decade, is in some senses, in the crux of SOA movement, as companies—and software vendors—begin to understand that part of developing a SOA is defining business processes.
August-Wilhelm Scheer, IDS Scheers founder, chairman and chief technology adviser, along with Mathias Kirchmer, president and CEO of IDS Scheer Inc., the Americas arm of the company, sat down with eWEEK Senior Writer Renee Boucher Ferguson recently to talk about the companys current involvements and future outlook.
It seems to me that the conversation around BPM [business process management] has changed from one of process modeling and execution to services mapping, application server integration and composite applications. Where does IDS Scheer fit into that scenario?
Scheer: I talk about the architecture of software and how our assignment in this area is that we are able, with our methodology and our [ARIS] tool sets to design a process for SOA [service-oriented architecture], which is driven by processes.
Otherwise it wouldnt make any sense to develop a new architecture, unless it leads to new ways of supporting business and supporting processes.
With SOA concepts, its the first way that the whole architecture is process oriented, and we are able to design the process—especially with SAP.
We have a very close relationship that all the services from SAP are documented in our methodology and also with our tools, so we have a direct possibility to compare user design with the operating of SAP.
Also we go a step further that we can also deliver directly the content of our processes to BPEL [Business Process Execution Language], the language which enables the assembly of services to process. So we can directly go from the thinking of new ways of doing business, to process innovation. Directly.
Kirchmer: To compare this to the ERP process, if you buy an ERP system like SAP or Oracle, its on the one hand a set of software, and on the other hand a set of business processes. You have to do things in a certain way—you have to open a material master before you sell a product.
So there is a certain business content, a certain way of dealing with a process thats included in your software, so you get some documented form of some references. So now if you look at SOAs, you have all these services in there and every service reflects a little part of a process, a process component.
But the definition of the process itself has to be done by the user because if you dont know how you use all this flexibility, and if you dont tell the system how you want to use it, then such a SOA does not really help.
What we do in that field is we help users define how they want to work in the future and then to hook into this process definition the functionality that is delivered with the services, so that we can give all that information to the process automation engine, telling it how to use the existing functionality so that the business message—how to use the SOA—is based on our ARIS toolset.
Right Place, Right Time
Were you at the right place at the right time in terms of the whole SOA explosion?
Kirchmer: If I look here in the U.S., we were exactly at the right place at the right time. The first four or five years when we were here in the U.S., market it was very difficult for us because that process idea was not as widely accepted.
We had to do a lot of education—the clients, the press, the universities. It was very, very hard. Then suddenly when this process idea started really gaining momentum here people saw, Oh, if I want to do a SOA, I have to have the structure definition of my process, otherwise it doesnt work.
That was the point in time where we could really benefit from the groundwork we had laid. We have in the last year doubled our revenues in the U.S. And we are targeted again to do that this year.
Because we move away from a situation where it is nice to have the ARIS platform, to really a must have. And companies recognize it.
Weve talked about SAP having ARIS as part of its NetWeaver platform, and then Microsoft having ARIS as part of BizTalk. This seemed to me a game-changing event for developers in that they would have the same modeling environment across platforms. Do these separate relationships enable cross platform sharing of services?
Scheer: You mentioned that already we have this close relationship with SAP, but outside this we are also working with the other software vendors which are in this SOA business. And we are developing interfaces between ARIS and their platforms.
We have already developed this interface for BizTalk Server, and also for WebSphere, and were in discussions with Oracle. So at the end of the day, the user can define his process [in ARIS], then he can split various directions that he can take some processes from SAP, others from Microsoft. So there is a possibility also for use in several platforms and I think this will be the case.
By the way, let me comment on your previous question. To be a company, you have to be ahead of the market. If you just pick up these things that are already around, then there is not reason for a new company.
You have to be ahead of the market. When we came to the U.S. 10 years ago, it was a struggle, but we found partners who had already the same ideas, especially engineering-oriented companies with the same ideas: to design first.
We do not design products, we design processes. And from this design phase, you want to support implementation.
Later on, there is a direct link to the execution layer, and the services are established according to the design blueprint.
Changes, Plans for the
Have things changed? Do you now have an execution engine?
Kirchmer: We dont have at the moment an execution engine. We have discussed this. I asked yesterday the senior vice president of Bank of America, a huge client of ours, What do you think? Does it make sense for us to develop our own engine?
He answered that it is not something he is really interested. The important thing is that [IDS Scheer] has a repository that has integration to over a dozen existing execution engines.
That means that, for Bank of America, with 160,000 people and about 100 different companies. They all have different execution systems, but they are able to drive the business view of that from the same repository and can drive it into whatever execution environment is best suited to a specific vision, or a specific country.
That is really the validation of building an execution engine. You have design your company standards and then you can load them in whatever execution engine is appropriate.
Scheer: We can do it or we can leave it. It may be that we are forced to buy and execution engine to be listed in the Gartner quadrant of execution, or something like that.
But from our philosophy, it is not necessary. It is better to say that we can design a process and develop all the interfaces to this execution layer, via BPEL.
Then at the end of the day, what you do with the machine is not our concern. You will not lose the collaboration to the others.
Kirchmer: This is exactly the case with cross-platform integration. We make the business content and knowledge essence of a company independent of the exaction platform.
What do you think of Oracles rumored plans to acquire JBoss?
Kirchmer: It will just accelerate the development of their Fusion infrastructure. They have the [goal of being like] a NetWeaver, or WebSphere or whatever, but maybe it is still a bit beyond the market. So they have to accelerate this.
Scheer: Oracle has a provenance on this side, because they bought the different application systems, different components, so the only way they can solve the problem is that they have one common definition of the processes however they will support using some transaction from PeopleSoft, from others. This will be the key.
Then they need a very powerful integration engine that they can assemble this zoo of different applications into one solution. And therefore, I think Fusion is a bit behind.
They are very late on some parts. But always, when they buy a new company, they increase their problems of integration whatever they do. I think its not to successful what they are doing?
What component will you interface with in the Oracle stack?
Scheer: We cannot talk too much about this, because the talks are ongoing. Maybe in six months or so.
Who do you think should govern services?
Scheer: At the end of the day, you will have logistics processes, used, for example, with developing a product. These you will find in any organization – how you can enter your customer order, how you can develop new ideas, new innovative products.
To support this, you need other innovative processes, controlling logistics, finance, and so forth. Then there are governance processes.
Our strategy is we will support this governance of processes. We will not develop application processes for logistics, but we will do a lot [with governance] that makes use of our ARIS repository, and you can integrate all these different applications via our ARIS database.
So we do the same thing that the ERP vendor did, that you integrate different functions via the database for the operation.
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