April 20, 2004 9:00 PM PDT

IBM aims services, software at modern design

IBM is rolling out a series of consulting services and a middleware product designed to convert business customers to a more modular and modern computing architecture.

As previously reported, the new offerings are meant to help customers adopt a services-oriented architecture, a way of building and running computing systems to be more flexible and cost-effective. IBM is competing with several other technology vendors to provide the tools and software infrastructure for building a services-oriented architecture, or SOA, which is becoming the preferred approach to designing business applications, much the way that client-server and Web applications became commonly used.

The consulting services, which will be delivered through IBM Global Services (IGS) worldwide, are meant to help companies assess their current computing systems and devise a plan to build a services-oriented architecture and use Web services, a set of standards for writing modular and interoperable applications. IGS will also offer services for moving older systems, such as mainframes, to a services-oriented architecture.


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On the software side, IBM introduced WebSphere Business Integration Server Foundation, an addition to the company's line of Java-based integration software. IBM has built in work flow software based on the Business Process Execution Language for Web Services, a specification under development for automating business processes that use software based on Web services.

The work flow software, which costs $49,000 per processor, is designed to let companies automate business processes by sharing information between packaged applications and custom-written applications, according to IBM.

A services-oriented architecture is a way of designing software to make it easier to automate business processes and share information between disparate systems. To construct a SOA, companies write applications as a collection of interoperable components that communicate via industry standards such as Web services. This modular application approach is more cost-effective, because it allows companies to create a software function, such as an order management application, and reuse it in many instances throughout a corporation.

Several technology providers are pitching their products and services for building a SOA, including BEA Systems, Oracle, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard.

"The blurring of the line between software and services means you're more focused on solutions than products."
--Michael Liebow, Web services VP,
IBM Global Services

IBM's approach to SOA, which combines consulting services and software, allows customers to better apply technology to the business processes they are looking to improve, said Michael Liebow, vice president of Web services at IGS. Consulting services takes the task of integrating applications from customers, and IBM can offer its consulting expertise in many industries, he said.

"We're trying to speed certain processes, and the blurring of the line between software and services means you're more focused on solutions than products," Liebow said.

One of the consulting services IBM is rolling out worldwide is called business component modeling. Formerly code-named Catalyst, the service is the result of a collaboration between IBM's Business Consulting Services group and IBM Research.

The service allows a customer to measure how efficient its business processes are compared to other companies in its industry. Looking at an individual company's business processes in the context of its industry helps it locate areas that can be streamlined and decide which processes, such as running a call center, can be outsourced, Liebow said.

 

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