Every year IBM holds its Impact event devoted to SOA, a method of sharing application resources that may have lost its luster among analysts, but continues on the long road to adoption in many large enterprises. Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive at the IBM Software Group, is seldom shy about offering his opinions about SOA, industry developments, or his competitors.
[ For a quick explanation of the ideas and benefits behind SOA, check out InfoWorld's three-minute InfoClipz on the subject. ]
At the IBM Impact event last week, I got some unfiltered responses from Mills about all of the above topics, including Oracle's purchase of Sun Microsystems (that question came last). What follows is an edited version of that Q&A session:
Eric Knorr: They say SOA is dead. So why are we even talking about it?
Steve Mills: It's a "rumors of my demise are greatly exaggerated" kind of thing. People say these kinds of things to be provocative. It's a silly conversation, like, "We had a dot-com bust, so the Internet is dead." No, the Internet has been with us for decades. It's not the kind of thing that dies once it's established.
Knorr: I've interviewed you about SOA every year for three years. What's different this year? How would you say customer SOA engagements are changing?
Mills: The level of sophistication on the part of the clients is dramatically greater. It's evolutionary -- 2009 is not some monster step function different than 2008. But going back to a 2004 timeframe, you had a lot of people looking for a way to get started. More recently it's about what's been working well.
Knorr: Governance problems stemming from organizational barriers have always been the greatest barrier to SOA adoption. Has that changed?
Mills: Tough economic times carry the benefit of forcing people to face up to governance issues they may have avoided before.
Knorr: A lot of the SOA work that was done in financial services is simply gone. Lehman Brothers, for example, had some of the best-laid SOA plans I've ever seen. What happens to that intellectual capital? Weren't financial services leading SOA?
Mills: No, no. We never felt that those customers had some unique corner on leading the effort. In fact I have always said for years now that the most prolific customers have been insurance companies -- dramatically more prolific than the financial institutions.
Knorr: Really? Any particular cases?