Big Blue Puts Weight Behind SOA

By Bob Violino


IBM is banking on service-oriented architecture as a key IT strategy for many of its customers. The company not only has developed a comprehensive portfolio of software, services and hardware for building and maintaining a services architecture, but it's creating a series of "SOA Leadership Centers" around the world to help organizations develop SOA-related skills.


IBM's pitch regarding SOA is that it's offering new ways to help customers transform their business processes, says a spokesman. "We do this through a portfolio of 54 industry-specific solutions that draw upon the depth/breadth of our services, software and hardware capabilities, our SOA leadership and a portfolio of reusable, pre-tested assets that enable clients to streamline, retool and optimize existing business processes without having to start from scratch," he says.


By leveraging pre-configured solutions that reflect a customer's distinct business processes, comply with business and technology standards unique to their industry and that can plug into their existing infrastructures, the industry solutions reduce the risk, time and costs associated with standardizing non-differentiating business processes and optimizing those that drive greater, enterprisewide innovation, according to the spokesman.


IBM also offers what it calls the "Smart SOA approach," which shows how the most successful organizations implement SOA with a focus on business value and the use of tested and proven techniques. The Smart SOA approach is a set of guiding principles developed by IBM, based on its experience working with thousands of customers using its SOA offerings.


Behind IBM's SOA push is a community of more than 120,000 architects and developers, more than 134 universities advancing the SOA curriculum, and more than 5,000 business partners building SOA skills, solutions and practices.


In addition, IBM opened last year SOA Leadership Centers in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; La Gaude, France; Rome; and Bangalore, India. All are designed to help customers, business partners and university students develop SOA skills. In all, eight Leadership Centers are planned around the world. Each will be staffed by IBM SOA experts and focus on three key areas: SOA education and training, SOA implementation support and SOA exhibitions and demonstrations.


IBM has also established the SOA Foundation, an integrated set of software and best practices designed to help organizations get started with their SOA implementations. The company selected the software that makes up the SOA Foundation from its product portfolio to support each stage of the SOA lifecycle, says Michael Liebow, IBM vice president of business development for global consulting and SOA.


IBM offers a range of SOA products, many as part of its WebSphere product family. For example, WebSphere Business Modeler helps organizations visualize and document business processes; WebSphere DataPower SOA Appliances are network devices designed to simplify XML and Web services deployments while extending a SOA infrastructure; and WebSphere MQ is messaging middleware software that enables organization to connect many types of IT systems on distributed platforms in a SOA environment.


In January, IBM announced it was expanding its business event processing software portfolio by acquiring AptSoft, a privately-held software company, for an undisclosed amount. IBM says AptSoft technology helps businesses uncover the cause-and-effect relationships among seemingly disparate business events, and will complement IBM's existing SOA software. AptSoft products will become part of the WebSphere software brand.


Next: What IBM Customers Say
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What IBM Customers Say


Industry analysts say IBM's approach to SOA has been effective. "IBM is the only SOA vendor to offer a one-stop-shop for SOA software and consulting services on a global scale," says Ian Finley, research director at AMR Research. The company's Global Business Services "is one of the leading SOA systems integrators, providing services for IBM and non-IBM SOA products," Finley says.


Delaware Electric Cooperative, which provides electrical services in southern Delaware, is using WebSphere as part of a move to SOA designed to meet its goals of cutting IT costs and improve processes, says Gary Cripps, the company's CFO who also serves as vice president for finance and IT. One of the benefits of SOA is that it has enabled the cooperative to improve processes and reduce costs in its engineering and mapping departments.


The move to SOA "is one of the best things we ever did as an organization," Cripps says. "The message that convinced me with IBM was that message of agility and being able to leverage the technology investment. That resonated very loudly with me and attracted me to their product."

IBM's efforts have enabled it to establish a market leadership position.


IBM claims to have the largest number of SOA customers in the industry, with more than 5,700 SOA customer engagements around the world. Clients span a range of industries and include organizations such as Harley-Davidson, United Airlines, Avery Dennison, Royal Caribbean, Cardinal Health, Morgan Stanley, Mutual of Omaha, Pacific Northwest National Labs (U.S. Department of Energy), Standard Life and Wachovia.


And it's very much a growing market, just reaching the early stage of maturity, Liebow says. "Although many of the solutions that companies have deployed to date can be described as SOA, many companies have not yet reached an enterprisewide implementation," he says. "We view this enterprisewide SOA implementation as the next big trend in the marketplace and our new and updated product lines are structured to ease clients through this process."


As the SOA market matures, AMR's Finley says, "IBM is well-positioned to offer what mainstream customers want, a comprehensive set of integrated software and service offerings tailored to meet their needs."


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