IBM rolls out SOA initiative

Company unveils new tools, services

IBM on Friday detailed an initiative intended to accelerate the business benefits of an SOA. The Business Integration Adoption Model, accompanied by new tools, workshops, and services, helps corporate users gain more flexibility by better aligning their business goals, and directly ties their business processes to underlying applications.

The model offers guidance on how to best implement new products and architectural models while simultaneously wringing out value from existing IT investments.

"We believe SOAs are now being driven by business concerns, where in years past it was driven by IT architectures. This is why we have tweaked [the Business Integration Adoption Model] to be based on specific businesses or industries," said Sandy Carter, vice president in charge of Websphere strategy, channels, and marketing at IBM.

The first vertical markets IBM will pursue include banking and financial sectors, electronics, insurance, government, retail, and manufacturing -- all areas that have a strong need for "application interconnectedness" and multichannel applications, according to Carter.

"The thing they are stressing, which we agree with, is both the real-time nature of business process automation and the fact you need to bring some optimization capabilities in as well. In other words you don't just want to automate the workflow, you want to be able to change the workflow on a real-time basis," said Dennis Byron, an IDC research analyst who focuses on business process automation.

One advantage to the IBM approach, according to Carter, is it allows users to start slowly and build both an architecture and services as a company's business grows. During the past six to nine months IBM has implemented 70 deployments in companies spread across a range of different markets.

"This strategy helps you to avoid what I call the Big Bang approach where you can start an implementation, project by project, as well as establish an enterprise architecture and infrastructure based on SOA principles on both the business and IT sides of things," Carter said.

Hoping to attract those just now embarking on an SOA project, IBM announced it will offer a free online assessment that will help companies evaluate current levels of SOA exploitation and to better focus in on the more critical parts of their operation. The company plans to make available a number of different online and classroom education courses.

In concert with these services, IBM also unwrapped its SOA Integration Framework, described by company officials as a services capability built into its server-based Websphere, Rational, and Tivoli software. The services consist of SOA patterns, processes, and tools that quicken the delivery of SOA solutions.

The Integration Framework provides guidance for creating business processes and services, run-time environments, and management frameworks, all of which are designed for SOA applications and environments.

IBM said it has several corporate users who have already been using the model, including Rockwell International, which is using it to implement an SOA that helps manufacturers turn information into knowledge for improved business performance.

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