IBM Says No to ‘Monolithic, Unchangeable Environments’

IBM thinks it’s time for companies to get serious about SOA.

Judging from the quantity and depth of the new software and service offerings it’s set to debut today, Big Blue is plenty serious about at least providing options for companies that have yet to embrace service-oriented architecture (SOA)  techniques, as well as for those that have but still need some fine-tuning.

For those who can’t keep all these acronyms straight, SOAs are distributed computing frameworks that allow customers to reuse code and services to help them choreograph Web services and legacy applications to power modern business processes.

IBM claims more than 5,700 customers are now using its middleware and SOA configurations to synchronize business processes and smoothly integrate legacy applications to achieve greater flexibility within their IT environments. The company now wants to take the expertise it’s gleaned from holding these early adopters’ hands and share it with the next generation of SOA neophytes eager to jump on the bandwagon.

“Some people are sort of hesitant, but quite a few have begun the journey,” Tom Rosamilia, general manager of IBM’s application and integration middleware group, said in an interview with “When you do this, though, it’s not just about simple Web services. That’s where you start. But eventually you’re going to want robustness and scalability. It’s really about the integrity of the process.”

In the past several years, IBM and competitors like SAP, HP, Oracle and Microsoft have all rolled out a steady stream of new products and services while evangelizing the virtues of SOA at every turn. That advocacy is finding an increasingly receptive audience.

“People are tired of this monolithic, unchangeable environment,” Rosamilia said. “They want to be more nimble and agile and not just better, but more adaptable. What they get at the other end is a much more flexible IT architecture. They’re doing things in an enterprise service bus now that they would have done in applications. But instead of making changes in an application that can take six months, they’re making a parameter change that’s done in six minutes.”

But to make SOA work—whether your using IBM WebSphere, SAP NetWeaver or Oracle Fusion as the software foundation—companies need to find harmony between their IT architecture and their ever-evolving business processes.

To help address that need, IBM’s latest products are designed to have a little something for everyone.

The updated version of its WebSphere Process Server announced Wednesday offers a set of features to support long- and short-running processes. It now includes extensive support for compensation that enables processes—like opening a checking account or processing an online order—to recover reliably when the target applications or services are unavailable.

It’s also revamped its WebSphere Message Broker and MQ to offer enhanced Web services support. Its WebSphere DataPower XML Security Gateway now provides hardware-based security for XML and Web services, while its IBM Information Server delivers what Rosamilia calls “a single version of the truth” regardless of how many different sources were culled for the data it provides.

Reduce deployment time

IBM also announced it will offer a series of new SOA configurations geared toward reducing deployment time when reusing legacy and packaged applications in a SOA environment. The configurations include step-by-step implementation guides and advice to help companies leverage their existing legacy applications.

And to make sure customers’ SOA strategy incorporates the best Web 2.0 features, IBM’s WebSphere software now includes support for Ajax as well as Atom and RSS feeds for all Web services.

The company also is updating its professional services and tools to support the SOA Governance environment with features including a WebSphere Registry and Repository (a catalog of customers’ services), Rational Asset Manager, Rational Tester for SOA Quality and a Rational Performance Tester extension for SOA quality to help manage all your services, IT assets and business processes.

Something for the SOA newbies

Finally, IBM has an offering for those simply wanting to test-drive this SOA stuff before making any kind of commitment that would require a Rational Tester or a Rational Asset Manager. The SOA Sandbox is a new, free “test bed” available on the IBM developerWorks Web site that provides a mix of software trials and hosted environments, with tutorials and online support.

Rosamilia said he anticipates the effort to woo SOA beginners will pay off quickly as customers recognize their needs for the technology.

“It’s good to be able to get started with simple things,” Rosamilia said. “But soon that will turn into a need for robust solutions for scale and integrity in your processes.”

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