RealTime IT News

Bigger SOA Stakes For IBM

IBM  spent the last year snapping up tools makers and software problem solvers in a quest to help companies get their applications talking to each other, which is a fundamental goal underlying service oriented architecture (SOA) adoption.

Now, IBM is showing off the fruits of all that green with a flurry of new products, all designed to address SOA issues, from integrating Web portal interfaces with customers, to re-architecting creaky old database systems for a modern era of granular uses.

In the process, Big Blue is serving notice on the competition that it is upping the stakes in the SOA  market, which already has systems providers scrambling for a piece of the consulting action.

Oh, and in case they didn't get the memo, IBM pointed out that the new offerings are based on IBM's experience with nearly 3,000 SOA customer engagements and 2,500 business partners.

The latest products build on four key areas, Steve Mills, senior vice president of IBM's software division, said today.

They are: business process management (BPM)  tools that exploit benefits from SOA; governance as the cornerstone of SOA success; preparing IT infrastructures for SOA; and creating industry-specialized SOA services.

In all, Big Blue added four new and 23 enhanced products to the market today, along with 11 new professional services offerings from its consulting ranks.

"SOA is a fundamental shift in technology that will continue to significantly impact business," Mills said during a conference call today to announce the new lines.

After all, he added, the early adopter phase of SOA is behind us and SOA software capabilities are now deemed as table stakes; the next logical evolution in this market will be ensuring that vendors and customers have the resources and skills available to make the most of their SOA investments.

"This represents a huge investment for IBM," he added.

He's not kidding.

Big Blue has been on an acquisition tear for the past year or so, with SOA assets the goal.

That much was on display today with the new product releases and services.

Take its DataPower acquisition last October. That purchase, estimated to be worth in the millions, picked up software to solve the challenge posed by hoggy XML messages that slow down other applications.

Then came the purchase of portal building player BowStreet, which helps customers integrate their portals with other customers' portals, one of the biggest bugbears in SOA systems.

IBM also bought the assets of privately-held BuildForge, which designs software packages to help development teams speed time-to-market cycles they're expected to manage among developers scattered across the globe.

Then came Webify, which makes software and services for insurance and health care companies. The assets could help IBM position its offerings in the insurance and healthcare.

That move fortifies IBM's position in the SOA market, where existing technology is reused to cut code development and implementation costs.

Today, the purchases came spilling out in a new round of competitive positioning in the SOA marketplace.

In addition to 11 new consulting engagements it is offering for business process transformation, IBM rolled out its latest version of WebSphere Business Modeler, designed to help customers see the network problems more easily.

The services crew is also offering a new BPM Methodology and the BPM Competency Center, where customers can accelerate their plans and adoption in a lab setting where they're surrounded by best practices and in-depth knowledge of the various BPM methodologies.

Plus, Mills added, the latest release of WebSphere Process Server enhances support for advanced human workflow capabilities to more closely align business processes with activities such as task approvals, delegation, or escalation.

IBM also introduced Workplace for Business Strategy Execution, a dashboard that can monitor business goals and objectives, link them and help build more insight into an organization's strategy.

And then there's governance, which is helping to drive so many SOA engagements, especially since Sarbanes Oxley regulations blew the lid off a dirty little secret in the IT world: not many companies have processes or systems in place (beyond outdated ERP ) that are equipped to handle a new era of SOX data collection.

And since SOA is more of a construct, rather than a specific technology application, such as virtualization, SOA adoption goes hand in hand with not only software but services engagements.

Among the major themes IBM highlighted today, one stood out for its symbolism: Mike Daniels. head of IBM's Global Technology Services division, shared the spotlight with Mills, indicating the close working relationship between IBM's services and software units.

Every major company's line of business is lining up behind SOA, the officials said.

IBM's latest SOA play comes a few weeks after Sun and Accenture inked a deal to work on SOA initiatives for their joint customers.