Monday, April 7, 2008

As SOA hype turns five, IBM turns to Smart SOA Social Network to bind communities of users

The global WebSphere ecology has trooped to Las Vegas this week for the IBM Impact 2008 conference, with a kick-off rally of sorts in the MGM Grand arena this morning.

I saw Fleetwood Mac here at a Comdex, must have been 12 years ago. IBM has sure done all it can to make this into a "SOA rocks" party. Opening tune from an actual marching band was "Tusk." No frisbees, no doobies, though.

This is a big, big crowd (6000) nonetheless, and clear-minded. Software infrastructure and middleware for the Global 2000 is a huge and fast-growing business, and IBM has had a good time at the trough. But nothing stays the same in software for long, so we need to look for the next chapter.

IBM may not be the fastest mover in the market, but when IBM does move, so does the market. IBM can define software's enterprise direction like no other company. HP may be the biggest IT company be some measures, and Microsoft gets around, but no company is more deeply and broadly embedded in the world's major corporations than IBM.

The goal for IBM has been clear for several years, they want the strategic relationships with the big boys, they want to be Barney in all the best boardrooms: I love you, and you love me.

So let's talk business transformation, deep verticals expertise, and decades-in-the-making interwoven ecologies of products, services, suppliers, partners, and technical experts -- from all corners of the landscape.

On stage first we have (8: 39 am PT) the CIO of Harley-Davidson, Jim Haney. He didn't say much, but nice bike. Now the opening video.

Next some classical music from attractive young ladies, circus performers from the ceiling ... it's Vegas.

"Experience" is the theme from Sandy Carter, IBM's SOA honcho. "Smart SOA" comes in, something relevant to the event, but then ... cut to Drew Carey, now of The Price is Right fame. We'll get a few laughs. Let me try ... How much would you pay for that Z Series running Linux instances to support 347 business services? How about 16 services? Maybe 8?

"I don't know what we're selling here, honestly," said Carey. That drew applause. "Don't buy their stupid SOA, buy our smart SOA." Even more laughter. (8:56 am PT)

Six comediens on stage now, several recognizable. This must have cost big bucks. Smart SOA meets over-budget marketing.

Now up, Robert LeBlanc, IBM's GM Global Consulting and SOA. They did some surveys and found that "change" is the biggest challenge for enterprise executives. How to conduct ongoing business model innovation, how to go global integration, manage talent, and gain "business transparency." These are what concern CXOs, says LeBlanc, adding that SOA is an enabler for the answers. (9:14 am PT)

LeBlanc: "Service oriented businesses" do the "key agility indicators" better. You can better beat the competition using SOA. There are multiple onramps to service orientation. Align business and IT. All this will be supported by industry frameworks and solutions, from IBM. We must do a better job of managing risk.

IBM uses SOA too, eats its own dogfood, and helps them run the global elements, better manage mergers and acquisitions, and manage double-digit growth in BRIC countries. Can your IT handle this need for agility and "transforamitive change"? End LeBlanc.

Harley-Davidson CIO Haney is back. (9:23 am PT). "Service orientation is not about the technology," ... it's about the process and bringing the customer into the process. He describes a Harley social networking app that motorcycle riders can map out their rides. By focusing on process integration, they went to ride experiences, needing events, maps, gasoline stops, etc.

Sounds like a web app mashup to me. End to end process integration allows the company to focus out to the consumer, dealer, supplier, rider. "You create an experience that's richer," says Haney. They show the app, again it looks more like WOA than SOA.

Now Steve Mills, SVP of Software at IBM. Theme remains "Smart SOA" and where they are going next. (9:36 am PT) Gives history of software and SOA. Again, it's about business and not technology, he says. Not much new here, says I.

Business managers should focus on services orientation, while the IT folks focus on SOA. Time to rethink applications, as representations of end-to-end processes. And we still struggle with integrations across applications.

"Smart SOA" (which IBM has trade marked) means "robustness" with added horizontal responsiveness and reach, says Mill. A federated ESB helps a lot in moving the value to extended enterprise activities. In 2008, we are now into the phase of how to scale SOA, using the high-performance ESB (like IBM's ESB).

Mills acknowledges that SOA is difficult to understand, that it's about automating business. SOA helps deliver better services an better returns, he says. End Mills. No news, really. (9:55 am PT)

More comedy routines. So IBM has 6000 people in a room and basically repeats the SOA mantra of past years. Checked the wires, no news there either, at least so far. (10:07 am PT)

Tom Rosamilia, GM IBM WebSphere Software is now up. It's about the business, as long as the technology works, he says. Makes pitch for ESB as core to all the BM products and services. No mention of open source alternatives, which are quite popular, for ESBs.

Rosamilia mentions that WebSphere as an app server brand is now 10 years old. And IBM MQ Series messaging software is 15 years old. And CISCS is 40 years old. Wow.

BPM enables b SOA. "You can do BPM without SOA, but I wouldn't recommend it," says Rosamilia.

IBM's news these days, apparently, are more about such acquisitions as Cognos and Telelogic, both of which are quite large for IBM.

Ah, at least, something new: "WebSphere Business Events" ... combinations of events that can be viewed and analyzed. Not much detail there yet. Business events to be big push for IBM this year, he says. (10:25 am PT) End Rosamilia.

Thomas Liese, strategic project executive for AMB Generali of Italy, now up, presumable for a case study. In a customer service project in insurance, they sough standardization, governance, reusability, automation, and input and output management. Says he saved 50% in total costs for the customer service function by using SOA and ESB.

IBM SOA honcho Sandy Carter is back. She says focus is in customers and best practices. She says a Wintergreen Research study shows IBM has improved its SOA marketshare (whatever that is) is up by 11 percent to a total of 64 percent SOA market share.

The Smart SOA Social Network is announced to connect the customers and allow them to share best practices, news, advancements. This expands communities set up last year for SOA developers and architects. They get 120,000 developers and engineers visiting the IBM SOA portal per month, says Carter.

So the SOA Social Network connects the various communities, sort of like a federated social network effect. The network will be role-based in terms of managing and linking among the groups. This reminds me of OpenSocial, but for building out SOA communities, whether they are on Facebook, Twitter, Second Life, or what have you. This may be large defensive against losing control or access to the community discussions. And it may not be open.

An online exchange built on IBM Lotus Connections will do the binding among and between the current SOA communities, says Carter. Furthermore, a "SOA Jam" will be created for SOA brainstorming on next big thoughts on SOA.

Lotus Connections is not exactly taking over the social networking space, so it will be an uphill road for IBM to carve out its own social networking effect on social networking. This seems very much like when large vendors created their own content portals around such initiatives as SOA, but now with their own social networks.

IBM wants to create the uber SOA and/or enterprise software community. You can use your existing social networks, but the effect may well be that users migrate to the IBM SOA exchange social network. IBM no doubt wants a 64% market share on the communities too.

End of show, 11:00 am PT.