IBMs Sutor: SOA Is So Necessary

IBM's director of WebSphere infrastructure software, Bob Sutor, lays out his company's service-oriented architecture strategy.

Bob Sutor, IBMs director of WebSphere infrastructure software, will be keynoting at this weeks Edge 2004 conference on software development in Boston. Sutor, who will be speaking on the concept of service-oriented architecture, took time last week to explain IBMs SOA strategy to eWEEK Senior Writer Darryl K. Taft.

What will you be talking about at the Edge 2004 conference? What will be the gist of your message, service-oriented architecture?

The title of the talk is going to be "How and What to Think About SOA." So the idea is to try to describe the characteristics of what were talking about in service-oriented architecture and how that relates to all this business stuff were talking about with on demand. And essentially the story there is to say we can talk about on demand completely in business terms. The top of it is to say that what our customers are after is flexibility, efficiency, being able to respond quickly to their market opportunities and the demands that their customers place upon them. That will allow them to become more competitive and so on.

So on demand is very much a business story, and it talks about how can I run my business much more efficiently to serve my customers? Then its very logical to say how do you actually do it? So the gist of what Ive been talking a lot about is to say at the top level the "how you do it" answer is service-oriented architecture because its the best way we know about right now to build what is essentially distributed computing.

So there are all sorts of new IT challenges included in this brave new world that has been brought upon us by the Internet that we need to solve. And SOA is not a new thing. By most accounts were actually in the third decade of thinking about SOA.

The story continues from the architectural picture of the capabilities of what were looking for in terms of SOA to say, Well how do you do that? And the technologies that let you do service-oriented architecture and let you do distributed computing are things like Web services, are things like grid. But again those are technologies. But if you focus down to like the fourth level and say, How do you deliver those technologies, how do they become concrete? Then the IBM story is thats WebSphere and our other products.

So what particular points will you be making?

In many ways, I think there are two important things to pull out of this. One is that were being forced into service-oriented architecture whether we want to or not. Its a good idea. Its good that it solves a number of our problems. And, frankly, from an architectural perspective its rather elegant. But the way business has been changing over the last few years and the expectations of the Internet really mean that these notions of service-oriented architectures and being able to work across heterogeneous environments … theres no question that we have to do it. The logical questions are around when and how as opposed to if.

Then the second point I would say is for many different ways of looking at this, service-oriented architecture is really why we did WebSphere. To ultimately not just serve up Web pages, but to truly allow enterprises to connect to each other and to truly build powerful enough applications that could tie together the concerns of the people you need to interact with externally, with all the different sources and different applications you might have internally as well. So the evolution of a WebSphere with its Java programming model is really key to providing the service-oriented architecture and its key features. Thats why we announced, coming up on four years ago, early support for SOAP [Simple Object Access Protocol], as weve been very aggressively helping to define the standards and implement them around Web services and around Java. This is why we very much think that WebSphere is moving, in the IBM universe, as the center of the SOA universe.

SOA is very clearly instantiated through WebSphere and has been guiding the creation of the WebSphere application server over the last few years. And it will absolutely continue to contribute to the way we do things like data management and systems management and straight-out software development.

Next page: Defining SOA.