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IBM views SOA as "business-driven computing"

Steve Mills, senior vice president for IBM Software, called SOA "something we're going to be doing for decades to come."

During his keynote speech to an estimated 4,000 attendees at IBM's Impact 2007 conference geared around the topic of service-oriented architecture, Steve Mills, senior vice president for IBM Software, called SOA "something we're going to be doing for decades to come."

The sea of attendees alone spoke volumes about the inexorable pull of SOA, but Mills made it clear that the technology has grown up during this decade and that businesses now have a viable means of turning IT into a strategic advantage instead of cost center.

"It's not three years ago," he said. "It's 2007. The capabilities are there."

He added that the remarkable thing Big Blue is seeing in the 4,500-plus SOA customer projects in which it's been involved is that the movement spreads across geographical boundaries, market segments and company sizes. He said that has not been the case with previous technological advances and then hastened to point out that SOA extends past technology and into the business, giving it a much stronger set of legs than your standard IT initiative.

"Had this shift toward service-oriented architecture been purely about technology, we'd be onto the next buzzword," Mills said. "Yet it hasn't happened because with SOA there is a connection to real business issue and real business problems. … We're in an era of business-driven computing."

At the proceedings, IBM announced a slew of new products and enhancements to it's already massive SOA product set. It also moved SOA into the virtual world with a Second Life version of the Impact 2007 conference and a new first-person virtual game called Innov8, which simulates business process management (BPM).

In addition, Big Blue announced the creation of service sciences track to be taught to business and IT students at the university level and new SOA and BPM certifications for the professional class. In fact, IBM executives made it clear that, in their view, the battle for hearts and minds has proven more difficult than technology when it comes to SOA adoption.

"There's some great technology out there for companies that want to do SOA," said Tom Rosamilia, general manager of WebSphere software. "The thing that slows them down is culture."

Addressing the app dev culture directly, Mills noted, "We built too much of the process rules into the apps and now we have to separate that out." Until that culture changes, according to Mills, users won't be able to create executable, dynamic business processes able to synch up with "next generation business modeling thinking."

Looking toward the future, Mills believes that moving high-volume transaction systems across a horizontal integration layer will load significant stress on corporate IT systems, posing the next great technological challenge for SOA. He estimated that pinch will be felt most severely in 2008 and 2009 and expressed confidence that Big Blue, steeped in high performance transaction processing legacy, will be able to differentiate itself from the rest of the SOA vendor space in this area.

In the meantime, here are some of the new and enhanced products coming from IBM during the course of 2007:
SOA industry framework roadmaps based on its 2006 Webify acquisition. The first six vertical markets targeted are insurance, banking, retail, telecommunications, healthcare and industrial.
·WebSphere Process Server on System z, which brings SOA and BPM functionality to mainframes.
·DB2 Dynanic Warehouse, which ties together BPM and business intelligence functions.
·WebSphere Portal, upgraded with Web 2.0 functionality, including hooks into Google Gadgets.
·New Web services feature packs for WebSphere Application Server.
·WebSphere DataPower Integration Appliance XI50, which integrates the WebSphere Service Registry and Repository and direct database connectivity through DB2.
·Clustering and high availability support in the WebSphere Service Registry and Repository.
·Expanded business activity monitoring tools, including third party software monitoring.
·Tivoli Composite Application Manager, with new management dashboards, business reporting and chargeback capabilities.
·Rational Asset Manager, a new product which will store design, development and deployment assets.
·IBM Classification Module for IBM FileNet P8, which offers content classification as a service.

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