A Big Blue Boost For SOA Strategy
IBM unveiled a series of announcements--11 new products, 20 product enhancements, and eight service offerings-all tied to its efforts to shore up customer adoption of service oriented architecture (SOA). The product and service offerings, some of which were highlighted during a conference call on Monday, will be rolled out on a staggered timeframe over the next six months.
"We believe that we're in a world now that is much more process-led, not technology-led," said Steve Mills, IBM senior vice president and Software Group executive, during the call. "It's about the business process and about process integration. The ability to achieve that has come into focus over the last couple of years around this concept of service oriented architecture."
Roadblocks to success with SOA deployments are, typically, deciding on how to get into an SOA, sidestepping additional costs, and ensuring that investments are allocated toward a business strategy that will hold up during market and company changes, according to IBM. To help customers approach and initiate SOA projects, however, Robert LeBlanc, general manager of IBM WebSphere Software highlighted five key entry points: people, process, information, overall connectivity, and the ability to reuse existing assets.
Drawing on its acquisition of Bowstreet, a provider of application development tools for portals, IBM unveiled WebSphere Portal version 6.0, which integrates IBM Workplace and collaborative technologies, making it easier for users to build and deploy composite applications. The release leverages asynchronous Java and XML (AJAX) and provides a workflow builder that uses the process engine from WebSphere Process Server, powered by WebSphere Enterprise Service Bus. New features to WebSphere Business Monitor version 6.0 include business alerts, links to third-party reports, and scorecards to track projects.
To provide industry-specific models to help organizations successfully launch their SOA initiatives, the company unveiled the enhanced IBM Banking Information FrameWork and IBM Insurance Application Architecture models. Another product, WebSphere Application Server, features elements like SIP servlets to lessen the complexity of an SOA as it expands to include applications like voice, video, and instant messaging. WebSphere Commerce version 6.0 features transaction management capabilities and gives companies a view of the customer across all sales channels.
Two of IBM's customers that turned to it for SOA projects were on hand to share their real-world experiences. Pep Boys, an automotive aftermarket retail and service chain, sought a strategic method to integrate its 593 stores. SOA "allowed us to incrementally change the business applications as we needed to," Bob Berckman, assistant vice president at Pep Boys, said during the conference call. "We didn't want to go in with a Big Bang Theory and replace all store applications, especially when we were running roughly 12 applications in the store. But rather we wanted to implement the applications in pieces." Another benefit, he added, is reuse, noting as an example the company's ability to reuse a tax module in multiple applications.
Harley-Davidson's interest in SOA stemmed from its tightly-coupled systems to support its credit and loan origination process. "You make one change to one of those systems that support one of those processes and you basically have to touch all of the systems," Jim Haney, CIO of Harley-Davidson, said during the call. "Our entry point for getting into service oriented architecture was to decouple all those systems and bring those systems together [so] that we can change components of them very quickly."
Similar examples of customers that have launched SOA initiatives, according to Dennis Gaughan, research director at AMR Research, will help bring SOA to the mainstream. Monday's announcements were "less about the myriad of products that they've added or enhanced, but more about how IBM is going to try to start looking at helping customers define specific kinds of what they call 'points of entry' into SOA," he says. "Specific examples of how customers are starting to take these technologies and use it to solve real problems, is really what it's going to take to have SOA make that leap from emerging technology to more mainstream technology."
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