New Tools Will Help SOA Soar In Businesses

IBM, BEA introduce SOA development and management tools to help business expand deployments

Rick Whiting, Contributor

October 6, 2006

3 Min Read

One product likely to help lift SOA into the business world is the WebSphere Business Services Fabric for building industry-specific Web services. Based on technology acquired in IBM's August purchase of Webify Solutions and specialized services from IBM business partners, the tool provides prebuilt, customizable SOA components, semantic models, and policies initially targeting the health care, insurance, and retail industries. Content for financial services companies is in the works. IBM also unveiled services for assessing the security needs of SOA-based systems.

The announcements are part of the $1 billion IBM is investing in SOA initiatives this year, Mills said, adding that the company has nearly 3,000 customers at some stage of deploying such systems. IBM has plenty of competition--a fact it acknowledged by starting a campaign that knocks 25% off its Rational and Tivoli testing tools for customers switching from Mercury Interactive or Borland Software. Mercury will become an even more formidable SOA rival as part of Hewlett-Packard.

BEA Aims Higher

BEA Systems also has been hearing customer calls for higher-level SOA management tools. Last month, it debuted BEA SOA 360, a suite of software from its Tuxedo, WebLogic, and AquaLogic product lines for assembling and managing SOA systems. The suite includes a metadata repository for managing software assets, a capability BEA acquired when it bought Flashline in August, and business process management tools BEA got in its acquisition of Fuego earlier this year.

SOA LeaningsBEA is seeing use of SOA and Web services expand from small-scale projects to companywide efforts, says Bruce Graham, leader of the vendor's SOA consulting practice. That means sales, line-of-business, and other managers will begin to play a bigger role in defining Web services. That's where business process management tools--which business managers generally are familiar with--come in. "It's got to be in a language business can understand, and we think that language is BPM," Graham says.

Most vendors are still too focused on IT rather than business users, argues Annrai O'Toole, CEO of Cape Clear, which sells an enterprise service bus and other software for implementing SOAs. The way businesses now build SOAs is "prohibitively expensive and prohibitively complex," he says, and few users are going to implement a metadata repository on their desktop. What's needed for business users are tools that follow the simplicity paradigm used by wikis, which let users see all information related to a Web service.

A lot of companies aren't waiting for software vendors to get their tools together. Last week, Accenture said it won a $199 million contract to develop an SOA-based pension and health benefit system for the California Public Employees' Retirement Systems. "There's a sizable cadre of IT professionals out there who understand [SOA] is more than just application integration," says Forrester Research analyst Randy Heffner. SOA is all about business flexibility, he adds.

The challenge is to quickly develop the software components that make up an SOA, reuse those components frequently to develop and build Web and business services, and find a way to easily manage it all so things don't spin out of control when a business has thousands of these software components and services in operation.

That requires more sophisticated tools, something vendors are beginning to figure out. If the new tools can relieve IT departments of the SOA heavy lifting, then reusable software components and services can start to fulfill their promise.

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