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Analysts glowing over SOA, on-demand linkage

Last week's SOA announcements from IBM have analysts thrilled about the prospects in store.

Prop up IBM's on-demand strategy against the service-oriented architecture design principle and you'll find similar philosophies on both sides heavy on integration and flexibility.

So formally linking the two is a natural, right?

Industry analysts seem to think so in light of a spate of announcements from IBM last week regarding new software tools and services to help enterprises implement an SOA strategy.

Architects care a great deal about SOA.
Mike Gilpin
VP, research directorForrester Research Inc.

Among the announcements was IBM's new WebSphere Business Integration Server Foundation, a J2EE-based run-time integration server that includes native support for the Business Process Execution Language (BPEL). It also announced assessment and planning services from IBM Global Services that specifically address SOA.

Forrester Research vice president and research director Mike Gilpin said SOA is the No. 1 topic of interest for enterprise architects and it's also creeping up on the radar screens of CIOs. Having IBM's marketing and services muscle aboard the SOA bandwagon has SOA advocates smiling broadly.

"The exciting thing IBM is saying is that companies need SOA to be an on-demand business," said ZapThink LLC senior analyst Jason Bloomberg. "They are trying to convince all their customers to be on-demand businesses and they're saying they have to have SOA to do that."

IBM's on-demand strategy compares to utility computing initiatives from other vendors like Hewlett-Packard, but it's broader, analysts said. It involves integration, automation and virtualization strategies to enable IT shops to meet the demands of their customers in real time in a flexible manner.

"Architects care a great deal about SOA. We have also seen the topic rate quite highly on the CIO radar screen, and a number of our clients are implementing SOA quite broadly," Gilpin said.

Gilpin said SOA is a key element of IBM on demand, which requires flexible systems and architectures that respond to business requirements.

SOA also fits with the integration component of on-demand because it ties together different business processes in real time.

SOA specifically aims to create services that can be used in a number of applications, and support the creation of composite applications that knit together business functions across multiple stovepipes, without regard to the differing underlying technologies that were used to build them," Gilpin said.

Ultimately, on-demand is also about the underlying architecture and its support for virtualization and grid computing.

"[This] enables more flexible allocation of application workloads onto a more responsible systems infrastructure, that makes resources available as applications need them," Gilpin said. "The types of application workloads that are best able to take advantage of such an infrastructure are those that are the most modular in nature (as opposed to monolithic architectures like client/server), and SOA drives toward precisely such modularity."

With native BPEL support, IBM continues toward unifying WebSphere on a single, standards-based stack of application infrastructure, Gilpin said.

With this step, many (but not all) application integration usage scenarios can be supported entirely on the native WebSphere stack, and BPEL support is part of that, through its support for the business process management layer of the stack," Gilpin said. "I expect to see the unification roadmap completed in about a year (i.e. in the Spring of 2005) with the next round of deliverables, at which point all the WebSphere products for development, integration, and runtime, will be on one stack based on Java, J2EE, and Web services standards."

Finally, IBM's experience in implementing SOA with message-oriented middleware via its MQSeries gives its services division a leg up here.

"There are many IBM customers with some degree of SOA already implemented on MQ, and many [IBM Global Services] consultants with experience in implementing SOA, who are now also familiar with Web services as a means of doing SOA," Gilpin said. "The advantage of Web services over MQ is that it is a much broader industry standard; MQ was a de facto standard in some circles, but not nearly as ubiquitous as Web services already are, and the potential has only begun to be tapped."

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