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IBM initiative links SOA, on-demand

Service-oriented architecture has been around for a long time. IBM is trying to make sure your enterprise hasn't forgotten about it.

IBM Corp. has gone a long way toward making service-oriented architecture (SOA) a household concept in the enterprise.

By linking SOA with on-demand computing in an initiative announced today that includes new products and services, IBM is saying the time is right for SOA in the enterprise.

"This will definitely bring SOA to the forefront of any company that works with IBM, especially large enterprises," said Jason Bloomberg, senior analyst with ZapThink LLC. "Web services have been around for a while. SOA has been getting a lot of attention in the last six months; there have been less tire-kickers and we're seeing more requests for proposals (RFP). Enterprises are understanding the value proposition."

[IBM is] going to try to convince all their customers to be on-demand businesses and they are saying you have to have SOA to do that.
Jason Bloomberg
AnalystZapThink LLC

SOA, a set of design principles and tools that links services using a standardized description language, enables IT flexibility for on-demand enterprises wanting to integrate business processes between the company, partners and suppliers. Managers in an on-demand world, said IBM, can respond with flexibility and speed to any customer demand.

"The exciting thing is that IBM is saying companies need SOA to be an on-demand business," Bloomberg said. "The company is going to try to convince all its customers to be on-demand businesses, and it is saying you have to have SOA to do that."

IBM director of WebSphere infrastructure software Dr. Bob Sutor said Big Blue's renewed SOA campaign will include more announcements in May, June and during the fall.

Sutor said IBM customers want flexibility in their IT infrastructures to be able to respond to market opportunities and customer demands. Customers' biggest concerns revolve around how to do that in terms of their business processes. Sutor said that a service-oriented architecture that connects applications broken into components enables the flexibility companies are looking for.

The first SOA resource from IBM is its WebSphere Business Integration Server Foundation, a J2EE-based run-time integration server that includes native support for the Business Process Execution Language (BPEL). BPEL is a specification that executes business logic. The server, Sutor said, reads BPEL, keeps it and writes it out.

The server is available on Windows, three flavors of Unix (AIX, Solaris and HP-UX) and four flavors of Linux with platform support for Intel to the mainframe. Sutor said a version for the z/OS mainframe is due this quarter with another for the iSeries due in the second half of this year.

"Because this is Java based, we can deliver this platform on the hardware the customer wants," Sutor said, adding there is great scalability here. "We can start them on Intel and if the process grows and someday they need a mainframe, they can do it and just bring the process over."

Sutor said IBM is also emphasizing education and training in this initiative. Several new IBM Red Books are due that will specifically focus on SOA, Web services, patterns and best practices. IBM will also offer the same SOA and Web services training courses it provided for its IBM Global Services consultants to IT managers of customers and partners. It will also sponsor a technical conference for executives in Toronto next month.

"Education is key here; making sure they understand that this is an incremental process," Sutor said. "It's not all or nothing. When we talk to customers, we explain that there are several different ways to get involved."

Finally, IBM is devoting two new services to SOA -- one that focuses on assessments, the other on planning and strategies.

IBM Assessments for Service Oriented Architectures examines any hot spots in a business processes that could be improved by the use of Web services or SOA, Sutor said. Customers currently operating under an SOA principle can use the service to assess the functional and technical aspects of their implementation and whether it will meet service levels.

IBM Strategy and Planning for Services Oriented Architectures lays out the SOA road map for a customer, including examinations of the hardware and software regardless of vendor or platform. This service develops a schedule and expectations.

"One thing that is important is that IBM is combining software and services," said ZapThink's Bloomberg. "Many companies take a software-only approach and think they can get SOA out of a box. SOA is a design principle and architecture. You can't get best practices and design principles out of a box."

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