October 3, 2006 10:23 AM PDT

IBM beefs up SOA business

IBM is beefing up its software and services to capture interest in services-oriented architecture, a technology shift the company is intent to capitalize on.

At a press teleconference on Tuesday, IBM executives detailed the latest offerings from the company, including WebSphere Service Registry and Repository, business-activity monitoring tools, and consulting services around security and management.

A services-oriented architecture, or SOA, is not a specific product. It's a design approach where individual business services, such as authenticating networks or pulling up customer information, are used in different applications.

Corporate customers have been adopting this modular technology approach in an effort to make their IT systems more cost-effective and responsive. The shift to SOAs has set off competition among large software vendors looking to supply the tooling for these projects.

IBM has had 3,000 customers who have launched services-oriented architecture projects, which is more than any other provider, said Steve Mills, senior vice president and general manager of IBM Software Group.

By building an SOA, customers are able to lower their costs by reusing existing programs and to roll out new applications more quickly, IBM executives said.

IBM has been building out its middleware portfolio, in part through acquisitions, to address SOAs, which typically involve a wide range of capabilities. It has also attributed growth in its software business to adoption of SOAs.

On Tuesday, executives said the latest software enhancements are meant to address the need for "governance," or managing the process of building and running SOA projects, and to foster reuse of components.

The company introduced WebSphere Business Services Fabric, gained through its acquisition of Webify, a tool that provides pre-built software with support for industry-specific data formats, such as insurance and health care. WebSphere Service Registry and Repository is designed to work with IBM's different Rational development tools for building services and making modifications once they are running.

It also enhanced its software related to business process management to make it easier to view the status of business processes, such as calls coming into a call center. Its modeling tools allow people to better visualize ongoing jobs and to automatically launch programs in response to events, such as a high volume of calls.

In addition, IBM introduced new services--delivered from its IBM Global Technology Services consulting arm--designed for various aspects of security, business process management and management of SOA projects overall.

IBM is seeking to closely align its software products with corresponding services because implementing an SOA strategy requires significant services, Mills said.

Projects, particularly for larger companies, can be complex, executives said. SOAs "raise the bar significantly" in terms of managing IT infrastructure, said Mike Daniels, senior vice president of IBM Global Technology Services.

Mills underscored IBM's commitment to SOAs, saying IBM has more than 300 patents relating to SOAs and the company will invest $1 billion this year in related technologies and services.

"This is one of the transformational things happening in the IT industry," he said. "This is a set of ideas that has captured the imagination of the customer."

An IBM customer on the press teleconference described his company's SOA initiative as a multiyear, multimillion dollar "journey."

Tracy LeGrand, chief architect and vice president of technology, strategy and architecture at Ameriprise Financial, said that the company's SOA initiative started in 1999 as a technical effort to better link its existing systems.

Over time, managers decided to discuss the SOA project as the way to deliver specific business services, including customer management and asset management.

The "dialogue has to do with what services are important to support the business and how to implement them," LeGrand said. "If it stays as a technology discussion, you get limited results."

He said that Ameriprise Financial has measured the success of its SOA project by how much software reuse is happening and how quickly the company can offer services to customers.

Also, LeGrand noted that the company has been able to maintain its system design while replacing individual technology components.

"The concepts remain constant throughout (the) years," he said. "So the strategy can remain the same while our technology changes."

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SOA, Steve Mills, IBM Corp., IBM WebSphere, business process

 

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