Taking Stock of SOA

Q&A: Leaders at two top companies in SOA space reflect on its growing interest and activity.

The move toward service-oriented architectures has spawned a host of companies competing for developer mind share. Thought leaders from two such companies, Tom Erickson, CEO at Systinet Corp., in Burlington, Mass., and Gordon Van Huizen, strategic technology adviser and chief technology officer at Sonic Software Corp., in Bedford, Mass., recently shared their views on SOA development and other issues with eWEEK Senior Editor Darryl K. Taft.

Tom Erickson

Where do you think your company fits in comparison to your competition? What is your niche? What do you offer above and beyond the other guys?

One of the major differences is that, when you built applications previously, you had a nice situation with four walls to your application. You got your application development team together, and you defined the criteria.

You defined what kind of security you were going to have, service-level agreements. You defined how things were going to work together. ...

What SOA does is bring out the notion of a couple of other important concepts.

One is our niche: governance. And governance involves a series of functions, including discovery, policy management, contract management, change management, portfolio management and others.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read about Mercurys acquisition of Systinet as part of its SOA governance strategy.

Theres another area that is complementary to what we do, which is management security, where you have different types of enforcement, monitoring and provisioning.

But other companies are talking about offering the same thing. Infravio [Inc.] is one among many.

Absolutely. Infravio is a competitor of ours. Theres no doubt about that. Infravio is in the management security area, and through the work they did at one of their customers, they built some areas around this and realized this was a lucrative area for them to go into. And so about a year or so ago, they decided to move from the management security area into the area that were in. Sun [Microsystems Inc.] has introduced an integrated registry/repository; IBM has capabilities that are often considered in lieu of ours. And even though we work with IBM in some situations, we compete with them in other areas.

So how often do you partner? I know you have a relationship with BEA [Systems Inc.] for one. Who else do you have relationships with?

Well, Oracle [Corp.] resells our software and is embedding it in their Fusion Middleware product. At the big level, we have Oracle and BEA as our two biggest partners. We do work with IBM. Weve got two projects where were working with Microsoft [Corp.]. We also work in the ESB [enterprise service bus] world with Sonic and TIBCO [Software Inc.]. So we remain quite agnostic in the overall way that we service the market. And weve managed to [stay platform-agnostic] by providing a unique capability on a global basis. In fact, were working with Cisco [Systems Inc.] on a couple of opportunities as well.

What are the Microsoft projects?

In the case of Microsoft, theres some ESB capabilities, where Microsoft is using BizTalk Server as an ESB. And if you have an ESB and you want to manage your services, theres a nice complement between how they work. So you can take companies that are natural partners for us.

/zimages/4/28571.gifMicrosoft claims BizTalk outpaces ESB. Click here to read more.

Our partner network is very robust. Some resell the software, like BEA and Oracle. Others just work with us, like [Hewlett-Packard Co.s] OpenView, which were [built into the architecture of] their management product. With TIBCO, we have more than a dozen customers we work with around their BusinessWorks product.

So what do you think about Microsofts strategy around using BizTalk in an ESB-like situation?

Well, they arent going out and doing what IBM or BEA are doing, and what Oracle will announce soon as well. And theyre trying to adopt BizTalk to their current requirements. In fact, they just won a major deal in conjunction with us in California.

We really believe that Microsofts strategy is very much focused around "Indigo." Now BizTalk is a stopgap measure for them. What they really want people to do is to use the messaging capabilities that are built into Indigo, which are very synonymous with how we think about the way that Web services at a very low level will work in terms of how they interoperate.

One of the things Microsoft is doing is painting a bigger picture of the enterprise, in terms of how you actually scale these things and how ... you manage them. They havent announced or come out with that at this point in time.

Next Page: Gordon Van Huizen of Sonic Software.