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Big Blue on mission to dominate SOA space

A deal between IBM and the Fireman's Fund and a new integration adoption model for businesses are a few of the recent additions to Big Blue's SOA portfolio.

Contestants on The Apprentice television show dread the trip to the boardroom, where one member of the losing team will be fired by Donald Trump.

But as organizations start to shift to service-oriented architectures (SOAs) to reap the benefits of business agility, IT leaders need to make that trip to the boardroom and, unlike Apprentice hopefuls, these IT leaders can potentially lift their status in the eyes of business by going there, said Michael Liebow, vice president of Web services for IBM Global Services.

Liebow cites Fireman's Fund Insurance Co.'s recent decision to award IBM a 10-year, $94 million contract to shift its IT operations to an SOA as a "board-level proposition," driven by Fred Matteson, chief information officer for Novato, Calif.-based Fireman's Fund, a subsidiary of Allianz Group.

The Fireman's deal is one step in IBM's aggressive march to dominate the SOA space.

A lot of IT people don't want to talk to the business side and make the trip to the boardroom.
Michael Liebow
Vice President of Web ServicesIBM Global Services

"A lot of IT people don't want to talk to the business side and make the trip to the boardroom," Liebow said. "One benefit of doing SOA is the alignment between business and IT, so you [IT] have to talk to [the] business. [Matteson] did that incredibly well, and the business is now looking at [him] in a different way. At the end of the day, if you want to raise the stature of IT in the eyes of business, you've got to go engage."

Fireman's began its move to modernize in December, when it outsourced its hardware network infrastructure to IBM. The company also issued an RFP to consolidate its 500 mainframe-type applications, which IBM competed for, Liebow said. "A lot of customers just look for price. They [Fireman's] didn't want to just look at this as price-driven exercise. We started talking Web services and SOA as being the level of transformation they needed to have, to not just manage 500 applications but to transform them."

Through the creation of an on-demand infrastructure, it is estimated that Fireman's could achieve a potential 70% reduction in the number of applications, and a savings of $200 million.

The underpinnings of Fireman's on-demand infrastructure will be built on IBM's Insurance Application Architecture. IBM will use its component business modeling process to determine which applications deliver the most business value for Fireman's.

"[The project] involves IBM software, hardware, research, services, IBM India and partners. At the end of the day there's not an aspect of the [IBM] business that won't be involved," Liebow said.

IBM also tapped Webify Solutions Inc., an IBM OnDemand Optimized partner in Austin, Texas. Webify's SOBA (service-oriented business applications) Fabric for Insurance, a SOA lifecycle governance platform, is an add-on to IBM WebSphere.

"The work they've [Webify] done and we've done mesh nicely," Liebow said. "It portends a future around a composite application notion. He [Matteson] clearly sees where it is going, the need for infrastructure and to cleanse the underlying application portfolio. [The creation of composite services on top will] be more responsive to the business moving forward."

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Compared with smaller projects, which Liebow dubbed "service-oriented integration," Fireman's "is a very 'big bang,' a true SOA project," Liebow said. The company "has a clear vision and architecture in mind at the end of day."

However, Liebow stressed, there will be continuous value delivered to Fireman's along the way. "It's all an incremental build, aligned to the pain points of the business. We will deliver value in four months, and then four months after that," he explained. "They've got a road map and a clear vision. We advocate that organizations have that [vision] and sell it to business, and then build it incrementally."

In addition to the Fireman's deal, IBM last week announced its Business Integration Adoption Model, along with new tools, workshops and services.

IBM said the Business Integration Adoption Model is designed to accelerate the business benefits from SOA and establish a road map. IBM also announced a free online assessment tool that enables businesses to quickly evaluate their current level of SOA readiness and identify focus areas, a series of WebSphere Integration Architecture Workshops for creating SOA business integration road maps and the SOA Integration Framework. The framework is a new services capability built on WebSphere, Rational and Tivoli middleware.

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