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IBM unveils new SOA offerings

IBM has rolled out new software and services designed to help customers implement Service-Oriented Architectures (SOAs), including enhancements to its WebSphere Application Server, and new planning and assessment services. The company joins other top-tier Java market players that continue to vigorously promote Service-Oriented Architecture as solution to enterprise problems.

IBM's WebSphere Business Integration Server Foundation is designed to allow users to build and integrate applications from within SOAs. IBM is billing it as one of the first products to offer native support for the Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) for Web Services. BPEL is a BEA-, IBM- and Microsoft-authored language for orchestrating business processes in Web services environments. Earlier this month, IBM and rival BEA Systems announced that they were working together to combine BPEL with Java.

IBM is delivering its new SOA-related services through its massive services division, IBM Global Services (IGS). These include Assessments for Service-Oriented Architectures, which is designed to help customers currently working on a SOA to assess functional and technical aspects of their planned implementation; Strategy and Planning for Service-Oriented Architectures, which helps customers to identify business and technology capabilities required to take advantage of service-oriented computing; and Application Renovation and Integration for Service-Oriented Architectures, which helps customers with data in legacy systems to determine whether there is value in exposing legacy data and linking it with new business processes in the SOA.

Another new service, Component Business Modeling, combines the efforts of IBM Research and Business Consulting Services to allow users to map their business processes across entire industries, and to break down a business into a set of discrete activities supported by people, process and systems.

The SOA model has become something of a cornerstone of IBM's two-year-old on-demand initiative. IBM has characterized its focus on SOAs as "an extension of existing strategies to help customers take advantage of IBM innovation and standards-based technologies to drive down costs, create new opportunities for growth and transform to on demand businesses." Though it has often been characterized as a utility computing strategy, on-demand is actually a broader concept, one that IBM says will allow its customers to integrate their business processes across their organizations and with key partners, suppliers and customers.

IBM's on-demand strategy heavily leverages emerging Web services standards, which is where SOAs come in. In a SOA world, said Bob Sutor, IBM marketing director, business processes are exchanged as interchangeable tasks or services, such as Web services, Java adaptors, or older APIs like CORBA or SNMP (systems network management protocol). For example, a bank can use the same computing services infrastructure to handle account transfer requests whether they are coming from a teller, an ATM or a Web application, thus avoiding the need for multiple applications.

"Simply put, we see [SOAs] as the best way to allow enterprises to connect things that aren't normally connected," said Sutor.

IBM is not the first big vendor to announce new SOA-related product offerings. BEA, Microsoft and Oracle have all waded into the SOA pool with their own products and services. BEA has begun to describe in more detail its vision of a unified, standards-based infrastructure that can quickly help customers to build SOAs. BEA will be talking more about SOA as its May user conference approaches.

Analysts at IDC expect the market for SOAs, including software, services and hardware, to reach $21 billion by 2007. IDC expects to see a concomitant growth in the use of Web services, with projects underway in 80% of businesses by 2008.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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