Big Blue banks on SOA management

IBM Tivoli executives last month said the company would deliver software by year-end to keep tabs on service-oriented architecture (SOA) enabled applications.

The company provided details about IBM Tivoli Composite Application Management (ITCAM) for SOA software to some 3,000 attendees at the Share user group conference. ITCAM will be able to monitor SOA service and application performance, and will give network operations staff visibility into the status of underlying infrastructure components, such as middleware and application servers, IBM said. The company’s announcement follows HP’s introduction in June of OpenView SOA Manager.

Managing SOA environments has until recently been the purview of start-ups and smaller, application-specific vendors, but the arrival of IBM, HP and others indicates a significant broadening of the market. According to a July survey of 100 CIOs by Goldman Sachs, 87 per cent use Web services now and 54 per cent plan to deploy infrastructure to support SOA by year-end.

“Web services and SOA management is getting into more than just up-and-running alerts on individual SOA projects,” said Randy Heffner, a vice-president at Forrester Research.

“Customers want to manage everything from security to policies across an enterprise-scale SOA. The [niche vendors] dove in quickly and have more time on the ground, but the big vendors will be able to deliver a more complete solution in the long run.”

For Erik Sargent, Web application architect at Providence Health System in Tigard, Ore., SOA management software ideally could help him learn how his applications work in production as well as alert the network operations team when “requests start failing at a catastrophic level.”

To get insight into Simple Object Access Protocol messages and faults today, he is working to integrate implementations of NetIQ and BMC management software.

He said the existing software will have to do for now, but if large management vendors intend to target SOA he would have some specific requests.

How things run

“Ultimately, I would like to see where my services are running and how they interact. It would be good to create a meta-layer that showed how they talk to each other. And to have a searchable repository of services and how they can be used,” he said. With this release, IBM intends to tie SOA service performance to underlying components to help customers identify potential problems across an SOA.

ITCAM for SOA comprises centralized management software installed on a dedicated server and distributed software agents that reside on systems alongside SOA platforms such as BEA WebLogic, IBM WebSphere and Microsoft .Net.

The agents collect performance metrics, such as message size, response time, service calls, turnaround time and number of faults, and send the data to the management server for real-time alerts.

Customers view alerts and performance data via the Tivoli Enterprise Portal. SOA application and services performance metrics also are sent to a data warehouse that provides a services inventory of sorts, by including services definitions and their potential use for quick reuse in new SOA-enabled applications.

Heavyweights such as IBM, HP, BMC and Computer Associates compete against companies such as Actional, AmberPoint, SOA Software, Sonic Software and Systinet, which individually provide products to manage Web services and SOA-enabled applications.

Most of the larger management vendors used acquisitions to get into the Web services management market — IBM acquired Candle in April 2004 and Cyanea in July 2004, HP purchased Talking Blocks in September 2003, the same month CA acquired Adjoin.

And they are using developing standards to broaden their management capabilities to address SOA now that the technology is spreading across corporations.

The competition

Despite niche vendors’ early delivery of SOA management tools, experts predict the smaller firms will face tough long-term competition as IBM, HP, CA and others — such as BEA with its AquaLogic suite — work toward integrating SOA management capabilities into their broader product portfolios.

Take IBM, for example. ITCAM for SOA is being developed to integrate with Tivoli Federated Identity Manager, IBM’s software that would add the automated authentication and integration needed to keep SOA services securely running.

Coupling SOA management tools with application development tools and application platforms such as those in IBM’s Rational and WebSphere software divisions, respectively, also would help customers manage the entire life cycle of SOA-enabled applications, Heffner said.

“SOA is an abstraction layer on top of other systems….If you are managing an application across an SOA you must also manage the underlying systems,” said Ron Schmelzer, analyst at ZapThink.

“Management software has to both ensure the services are available to the right users and that any changes to the underlying systems do not impact the services.”

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