Big Blue is betting big on the broad-based acceptance of Service Oriented Architectures (SOAs) as the best way to help corporate users integrate application functions and data across the wild patchwork of software platforms they deal with every day.
At the center of IBM's SOA strategy is WebSphere, which figures to play an integral role in helping fuel that strategy. And at the center of the company's WebSphere strategy is Bob Sutor, a long-time IBM executive now in charge of overseeing the present state and future direction of WebSphere Application Server and WebSphere Studio product lines.
Before guiding the strategic direction of WebSphere, Sutor was IBM's director of Web services technology, responsible for driving the cross-IBM Web services initiative. Prior to that he led the IBM-wide strategy for the development and promotion of key e-business industry open standards, including XML and Web services.
Sutor sat down with InfoWorld Editor at Large Ed Scannell to discuss his views on the benefits of SOAs to corporate users, what IBM has in mind for the next generation of WebSphere to help nudge users more quickly over to SOAs, and how that product -- code-named Vela -- also helps users make their way toward an on-demand environment.
InfoWorld: What do corporate users tell you is the most attractive aspect of SOAs to them?
Sutor: What is driving an interest in them is that companies have incredibly heterogeneous environments. Today if you are talking about servers, then that also means you are talking about things all the way down to wireless devices. You have to expect that as time goes on, because of what you already have in your own company, because of mergers and acquisitions, or because of new software you are developing yourself, you are simply going to have a range of hardware and software that you need to get your most important work done. And the way to get the most efficiency out of that sort of environment is to try to make it look more homogeneous. The Microsoft strategy is to make it all homogeneous by telling users to use Windows everywhere and you are done. Well that is not quite how the world is going. Certainly Microsoft is part of any IT situation, but even more so Linux, mainframes, and other platforms are going to continue to be part of that. We see SOAs as a way of abstracting away many of the underlying details of how you actually get the job done.
InfoWorld: What is IBM doing to quicken the adoption of SOAs among users?
Sutor: First, you educate them about Web services, which is one of the most practical ways today to create services that can be readily plugged into a SOA. Web services can work perfectly well to extend existing applications and, therefore, allows them to reuse existing software assets. It is not an all-or-nothing type of proposition. It means you can get into the game little by little. And this is what we recommend people do. They can pick a pilot project, learn about Web services, and then they can understand it in the context of their environment. Once they start getting some ROI they can enlarge that investment from there.
InfoWorld: So what is generally the biggest factor holding back SOAs?