IBM trots out muscle-bound SOA

Big Blue unveiled its new SOA Foundation yesterday, adding an ESB, an Eclipse-based Web services development tool and a BPEL process server to the WebSphere product line.

IBM took the wraps off its latest set of service-oriented architecture offerings yesterday, filling out its product

line with a lightweight enterprise service bus (ESB) and a Business Process Execution Language (BPEL) engine to the WebSphere software family.

Yet, while ticking off the list of new products, IBM executives lauded Big Blue's old school transactions expertise, calling it an essential piece of developing enterprise-class SOA.

"We understand the underlying semantics of transactions and the data," said IBM senior vice president Steve Mills. "You need to understand what you're trying to do with the business rather than just be a traffic router."

In the past they've tried to help customers squint the right way to see an ESB in the products that they already have.
Dave Chappell
Vice President and Chief Technology Evangelist Sonic Software Corp.

He hammered at the point that IBM systems process billions of transactions a day, mostly in mainframe and Unix computing environments. That's a tightly coupled world with enormous scale and integrity hurdles to clear.

Mills argued that Web services have opened the door to bringing that world into a more dynamic environment, but that the work will not be simple and that many vendors simply aren't up to the challenge.

"The quality of service piece is a key," he said.

While the ESB release may catch the eye of many market watchers due to IBM's prior reticence to offer such a product, company executives characterized it as little more than a simple tool that will allow late adopters and small to midsized businesses to start basic Web services projects. They stressed that IBM still views an ESB as a design pattern.

For heavyweight connectivity, IBM will have an upgraded version of WebSphere Message Broker, based on MQSeries messaging, to perform data transformation even in standards-free environments.

However, Dave Chappell, vice president and chief technology evangelist at Sonic Software Corp., viewed the IBM ESB announcement -- coming just a few months after BEA Systems Inc. also entered the ESB market -- as a triumph for the service bus concept.

"They're trying to ride the fence here," he said. "In the past they've tried to help customers squint the right way to see an ESB in the products that they already have. Yet now they've finally built one of their own and admitted it really is a product category."

Chappell went on to call the vast and growing WebSphere product line "a Sargasso Sea of technology that confuses customers to the point where they need to turn to IBM Global Services for help."

Mills believes the IBM SOA Foundation represents the enormity of IT muscle required to make SOA a functional reality, also mentioning that the Global Services division has 11,000 consultants trained in SOA development.

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When asked to contrast the IBM offerings to Microsoft's Windows Communication Foundation and SOA-related product line, Mills said, "They're offering a relatively simple set of point-to-point connections. … They're not going to manage an enterprise-class SOA."

New and upgraded offerings in the IBM SOA Foundation include:

  • The new, Java-based WebSphere Enterprise Service Bus.
  • The new WebSphere Integration Developer, an Eclipse-based tool for the development and integration of composite applications.
  • The new WebSphere Process Server, a BPEL engine that coordinates business processes with the new ESB, is built in to provide the messaging backbone.
  • The new WebSphere Everyplace Deployment, which monitors events in the application layer and sends alerts out to XML edge devices.
  • The upgraded WebSphere Message Broker.
  • The upgraded WebSphere Business Modeler, which allows business processes to be modeled prior to development.
  • The upgraded WebSphere Business Monitor, which provides a dashboard view of Web services performance.

IBM Global Services will form new industry-specific SOA teams and build a Common Services Delivery Platform, which will be a repository of reusable IBM and third-party Web services. Later this month, IBM's Tivoli IT management line also will unveil new tools for orchestrating and monitoring composite applications.

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