BEA Shifts SOA Practice to Next Gear

NEW YORK — BEA Systems unveiled a test designed to help
customers gauge what they need to do in order to install a service-oriented
architecture (SOA) , an increasingly popular method of
distributed computing.

Called the SOA Readiness Self-Assessment, the test helps IT managers determine how
to tie services to IT, taking into account an enterprise’s business
processes and strategy, service architecture, applications and projects,
costs, benefits and structure.

The test is part of a broader SOA practice BEA is offering to help customers
acclimate to SOAs, in which assets such as software and services are reused
to link business processes among customers, partners and suppliers,
according to Bruce Graham, vice president of worldwide professional services
at BEA.

Analysts such as ZapThink’s Ronald Schmelzer said this will be the hot
ticket in 2005.

“Companies are struggling with figuring out exactly how to apply and
implement technologies to meet their SOA needs, and it’s clear that
professional services and consulting is where much of the emphasis and
revenue will be for SOA for 2005,” Schmelzer said.

Graham was recently appointed to lead BEA’s services charge in a highly
competitive environment where the San Jose, Calif., company competes with
IBM and Microsoft on software and
services as much as the three cooperate on software standards.

Graham told that 500 users, including British
Telecom, have completed the self-assessment test since August, noting that
IT managers have praised its value at a time when SOAs are more of a
buzzword than a concrete offering.

He said BEA’s goal is to help customers not only recognize their ability to
offer an SOA, but to fill in any gaps they may have in setting one up.

BEA is using a framework that includes an abstract presentation layer, as
well as a library to manage reusable services that will include the
company’s messaging and Web services management middleware, QuickSilver, for
policy management and services orchestra ration.

Finally, Graham said BEA’s plan calls for customers to be able use ERP
systems and legacy applications as content engines.

“When we look at the world, we think three companies are playing this
Switzerland game: IBM, Microsoft and us,” Graham said. “We don’t own any
content engine but we enable all of that.”

BEA’s latest charge come as the company also continues to ramp up products based on its popular WebLogic platform for executing applications on the Internet.

While the company has taken its lumps for not having the services clout of IBM or the market penetration of IBM, the new SOA plans could salt away a lot of that if Graham and his team execute.

To date, IBM has been the most active and vocal about SOAs, though the industry is too young to determine what vendor is selling the most products and services. Just yesterday, IBM launched SOMA, another SOA service that purports to do similar tasks as BEA’s expanded services offering.

ZapThink analysts Schmelzer and Jason Bloomberg said it was refreshing that BEA is bringing SOA services to the table because customers need them to effectively implement corresponding software. But, they said, it remains to be seen whether BEA, relatively new to professional services for SOAs, can keep up with deployments from IBM’s global services group.

“BEA’s greatest challenge will be to provide vendor-neutral SOA consulting,” Bloomberg said. “Companies implement SOA, after all, because they have heterogeneous IT environments, so no single-vendor SOA solution will go over well in the marketplace.

Graham believes BEA will have the ability to differentiate itself from IBM, winning over new customers.

“No offense to IBM, customers are not asking for a license to consult, where all of a sudden you back up the big bus and send out the consultants,” Graham said. “People are asking for a road map to build out a
vision for SOAs.”

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