Championed for breaking down application silos, service-oriented architecture (SOA) can also bridge two IT islands, business processes and telecommunications.
Today IBM and Nortel Networks Inc. are unveiling joint SOA technology that links business processes, such as scheduling and project management, with the latest in telecommunications including mobile phones.
"It's the service-oriented approach of integrating the communications and the line of business applications," said David Epstein, director of public sector solutions at IBM. "It's not just integration with desktop applications. It's the decomposition of communications capabilities into a set of services that you can then tie into workflows or business processes that take advantage of capabilities from a wide variety of different applications."
For example, a financial services company application tracking the ups and downs of the stock market, could trigger a video conference call between two of the company's executives to discuss a crucial event, said Richard Tworek, general manager of SOA and Next Gen Platforms at Nortel. Triggered by a stock market move, the SOA application would check the schedules of the two executives, determine what video conferencing hardware was available to them and set up the call, he said. If one of the executives had to leave his office and go on the road, the application would switch the call to a mobile phone with video capabilities.
Tworek acknowledges that this example is a bit futuristic, but then the whole concept is a first step in providing integration of technologies that would have been difficult, if not impossible prior to the advent of SOA.
"This is just the beginning point of where the next direction will be in integrating more timely and varied information into the context of a business process," said Sandra Rogers, program director for SOA, Web services and integration at International Data Corp. "We're seeing what happens when you think about services coming from more than just traditional application sources."
Standards-based Web services and SOA make it possible to bridge the gap between business applications and telecommunications regardless of the vendor technology underlying either one, said Tworek, who stresses this initiative is not about Nortel hardware.
"This is not a Nortel specific product," Tworek said. "It doesn't just work on Nortel switches and communications infrastructure. It's capable of working across Cisco and others. What we're finding out from the customers, is they have a heterogeneous environments. So we're using standard Web services, standard SOA technique."
Based on IBM WebSphere, Nortel is providing a "sandbox" where potential customers can try out the SOA approach to business application integration with telecommunications. There will also be a toolkit for IT departments that want to do their own implementation. Both IBM and Nortel will provide consulting services for customers who want help building the bridge.
The first tooling for this software foundation is scheduled to be available in the first quarter of 2008.