Wednesday, October 3, 2007

IBM 'continuum' helps companies crawl-walk-run along the SOA path

IBM today unleashed a barrage of announcements that cover services and software to enable a crawl-walk-run strategy for enterprises, as they move into the services-oriented architecture (SOA) world.


The new offerings range from a "SOA Sandbox," which will allow developers to "play" with SOA before using it in a production environment, to WebSphere enhancements, and finally, to an unveiling of the new IBM Optim, a data governance application from recently acquired Princeton Softech.

Key to the crawl-walk-run approach is what IBM calls their SOA Continuum, which takes companies from the very basic -- involving only focused, high-ROI projects -- to the most advanced, in which technology becomes invisible and more than 80 percent of business functions are delivered as services -- and more than 50 percent of those are re-used.

I sort of remember the logic from an earlier blog. Glad they agree.

Recognizing the need for what they've dubbed the Globally Integrated Enterprise, IBM has also introduced assessment tools, including a Benchmark Wizard, which is based on key agility indicators and is loaded with 1,100 qualitative business indicators and uses best practices derived from 1,600 case studies. This will allow an enterprise to determine how it stacks up against the industry in general.

The new offerings also address several key stumbling blocks along the path to SOA-based agility. One such sticking point is how systems respond when services from various sources may be unavailable. IBM says its updates WebSphere Process Server has extensive compensation support, allowing process to recover reliably when target applications are unavailable.

Another key concern is exposing sensitive or personal data when services access databases. The newly acquired Optim product is designed to identify and protect private data in complex application environments.

IBM also announced enhancement for process integrity to several products, including:

  • Message Broker and MQ
  • Tivoli Composite Application Manager for SOA
  • WebSphere DataPower XML Security Gateway
  • IBM Information Server

IBM is taking an "all things to all people" approach and offering new SOA configurations, designed to help enterprises use legacy and packaged applications in a SOA environment. These include best practices and step-by-step implementation guides.

To help developers get started -- before even starting to crawl along the SOA path -- IBM has set up a SOA Sandbox, a free test bed on the developerWorks site. The sandbox, where potential users can download trial software or can "play" online in a hosted environment, includes software, tutorials, quick-start guides, and best-practices guidance.

As another aid to companies, IBM is offering "SOA Healthchecks," workshops to assess and diagnose applications, services and infrastructure to determine application reuse, security, and infrastructure flexibility.

Look for this opening salvo to increase in crescendo over the next few months, as IBM rolls out these and more SOA offerings at 500 events, including a customer Webcast on Oct. 9, and a series of announcements to create a drumbeat about the latest SOA end-to-end initiative.

Engagement on SOA has to take place in countless ways. IBM seems to be up to the task, or least is ready to try.