IBM moves to close gaps in SOA offerings

IBM Corp. is filling holes in its service oriented architecture (SOA) product lineup, notably in the areas of business process management and industry-specific services.

“Any holes are a recognition of what customers are trying to do,” Steve Mills, senior-vice president of IBM’s software group, said. “Early SOA adopters may have found gaps and had to do some handcrafting. They can avoid doing that now.”

Earlier this month IBM made what it billed as its most extensive rollout of SOA offerings to date, including four new products, 23 enhanced versions of existing software and 11 new services offerings. IBM positioned the news as demonstrating that the entire company is focusing its attention squarely on the SOA space as a revenue driver.

So far, IBM has helped close to 3,000 customers put in place SOA, Mills said. However, only a “relatively modest percentage” of those users have been using the SOA approach for a number of years, he added.

Mills stressed IBM’s need to be seen by customers as “the” industry provider of end-to-end SOA capabilities. While there are plenty of small niche SOA players, IBM mostly competes with Hewlett-Packard Co. when pitching an SOA portfolio.

IBM is investing more than US$1 billion in SOA-related areas this year, he said.

One of the four new products IBM unwrapped is WebSphere Business Services Fabric. The software is based on the technology IBM acquired when it purchased niche SOA player Webify in August and also draws on services from IBM business partners. The product includes prebuilt accelerators, tools and frameworks to help ensure that SOA applications comply with specific industry regulations.

Another new offering is WebSphere Registry and Repository (WSRR) to help customers manage their Web services and shared business processes. The software enables users to publish and find SOA services and can also hook into third-party registries and repositories.

The two other new tools are Tivoli Change and Configuration Management Database and Tivoli Dynamic Workload Broker.

IBM has also made SOA-related improvements in members of its WebSphere middleware, Rational development tools, Lotus collaboration and Tivoli systems management families.

The new SOA services focus on three key areas — security, service management and virtualization.

Tracy LeGrand, chief architect and vice-president of technology, strategy and architecture at Ameriprise Financial Inc., was particularly interested in the two new WebSphere products. The financial planning and banking brokerage company based in Minneapolis dates its move into what would later be termed SOA as beginning in 1999, and chose IBM as the IT vendor to help it adopt that new approach. Over the years, the customer has noted some gaps in IBM’s offerings, which have required Ameriprise to act as a systems integrator.

“This announcement has closed some major gaps for us,” LeGrand said. “I’m not sure if there are more.”

IBM’s WebSphere Business Services Fabric could help Ameriprise avoid duplicating work Webify and IBM have already done in providing industry-specific services relating to standards like ACORD in the insurance industry, LeGrand said. He’s also interested in the vendor’s WSRR since Ameriprise previously had to build its own registry.

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