Organizations have two important questions to ask when evaluating their SOA and Web services management needs, according to a recent report from Forrester Research Inc., Cambridge, Mass. The first is, does the organization need just service-level management and monitoring or does it need also need business-level monitoring? Second, if the organization has already made some type of platform commitment, can it get by until the platform provider's SOA management functionality catches up with what the pure-plays can offer?
While the SOA and Web services management market has received a lot of attention of late – and the number of pure-play vendors continues to dwindle as the larger platform players snatch them up – the market remains small.
"A lot of people are still waiting and there's some wisdom in that," said Randy Heffner, a vice president at Forrester and author of The Forrester Wave: SOA and Web Services Management, Q1 2006. Heffner estimated the SOA management market at about $50 million today.
Forrester recently evaluated the vendors in this space against more than 100 criteria. Based on that evaluation, Forrester put pure-play vendors AmberPoint Inc. and Actional Corp., which was recently acquired by Progress Software Corp. and is now part of the Sonic Software operating unit, as the leaders in this space, but indicated that the platform players are catching up.
Forrester categorized the offerings into two segments. Pure SOA management and security products offer service monitoring, service-level management, alert management and trust enablement. Into this category Heffner placed pure-plays Infravio Inc., Intellix A/S and SOA Software Inc., along with platform vendors Hewlett-Packard Co. and CA Inc.
In the business-level SOA management category, products offer pure SOA management and security, but add some business-level monitoring and application integration mediation features. In this category Heffner placed pure-plays Actional (Sonic) and AmberPoint, as well as platform vendors IBM, Oracle Corp., Tibco Software Inc. and webMethods Inc.
With business-level SOA management, "you can siphon off data from the business interfaces and report on it for business purposes," said Heffner. Some SOA management products provide more business insight than others, he said. "If you want to push farther, you do want a full business activity monitoring [BAM] product, but maybe this [SOA management product] gives you enough." On the other hand, if an organization already has a BAM solution, it may look to purchase an SOA management product that does not offer business-level monitoring, Heffner said.
"Business visibility has been one of potential payoffs [of SOA] for everybody," said Ed Horst, vice president of marketing at AmberPoint. Horst said Forrester's breakdown of the market is similar to way AmberPoint views it. "He [Heffner] called it business-level SOA. We refer to it as application-level management. It's not just about moving parts, but the transactions and the business flow and the application of SOA. We've worked hard on having that aspect of our product."
Ian Goldsmith, vice president of product marketing for SOA Software, disagrees with Forrester's segmentation. "It's a mistake to look at business-level monitoring as part of SOA management," he said. "There are good BAM products out there. BAM should be able to take some data from a SOA management platform, but it shouldn't be part of or dependent on an SOA management platform. I don't think anyone would buy an SOA management platform if they're looking to do BAM."
Goldsmith does agree with Forrester's categorization of its Service Manager product as offering pure SOA management and security, but said that is just one piece of its broader SOA infrastructure which encompasses registry/repository, XML virtual private network and mainframe Web services.
For its part, Infravio positions itself as more of an SOA governance provider that has Web services management capabilities, according Miko Matsumura, vice president of technology standards at Infravio.
Infravio's roots were in Web services management with its X-Broker product, which it donated to the open source Synapse project. Now, Matsumura said, its customers can get Web services management through Synapse, but the company's focus is on SOA governance.
While some SOA and Web services management products do offer governance and policy management, Heffner stressed that potential buyers need to recognize the different between runtime governance and the broader area of SOA governance. He noted SOA management products offer runtime governance.
"Take all requests from gold customers and route them to the fastest server," he said. SOA governance is about "making sure the organization is running the right way, making sure they have good processes and how those organizational and process policies get enforced."
Matsumura agrees. "Runtime governance is one life cycle stage. Infravio also participates in other lifecycle stages."
As the market sorts itself out, Heffner offered organizations this advice: Companies that have an immediate tactical need or do not yet have a strategic platform direction may want to consider a pure-play product that integrates with multiple platforms. Organizations that do not have an immediate need or that already have a strategic platform commitment may want to evolve with their platform vendor to get the benefits of deeper integration. "If you could reasonably get by on what you've got, you would wait and see how the space develops," he said.