IBM racing ahead with component strategy

With Lotus as a lead example, IBM Corp. is working to break down the other software products in its portfolio into sets of components that can be assembled quickly in multiple ways to meet corporate computing needs.

Danny Sabbah, the CTO of the IBM software group, says the goal is to make it faster and less expensive to integrate middleware capabilities pulled from transaction services of the WebSphere Application Server, data from the DB2 database, security and system management services from Tivoli and collaboration from Lotus.

“It is a flavour of our On Demand strategy,” Sabbah says. “We are trying to make our software more reactive to customer needs so people pay a lot less in terms of underlying labour for dynamically created solutions and see a decrease in the amount they spend to integrate products.”

IBM is training its 12,000 developers to use a common development process that gets away from a production-line mentality of developing software and lets developers build across product lines. The company is using a principle it calls progressive discovery, which is a way to expose interfaces needed for the component model.

Big Blue says it hopes middleware components will allow for the flexibility to pull together quickly select features to support applications.

For example, Sabbah says IBM could offer a data-warehouse bundle that will pull information from various sources and incorporate components of WebSphere for transactional integrity and Tivoli for secure access.

Interest in componentization has been garnered lately by advances in Web services and the evolving set of open standards behind the technology, such as those for security and business process workflow.

To support component integration, IBM also is developing an architecture called the Enterprise Services Bus, which is a sort of integration hub for its middleware components and other components brought together as part of a Web services application, especially those that cross corporate boundaries.

“We are trying to figure out what the first release needs to look like,” Sabbah says.

He says within the next year components will help define how IBM middleware supports a services-oriented architecture, which is basically an infrastructure for tying multiple components into one application or to support a workflow that executes some business process, such as approving a loan.