Surprise! IBM brings SOA to the real world with new tools

IBM and others have nearly talked SOA to death over the past few years. But now IBM is putting its money where it's mouth is with a set a tools to help enterprises successfully implement SOA in the real world, as announced at IBM's big SOA conference this week in Las Vegas.

IBM's current television ad campaign spouts the mantra "Stop Talking. Start Doing." While I usually dismiss this kind of stuff because it comes from high-powered marketing wonks and is usually divorced from actual product strategy, I have found one example where IBM is putting its money where its mouth is. You might be shocked to hear what it is: Service Oriented Architecture (SOA).

SOA has been nearly talked to death over the past few years -- by IBM and plenty of other enterprise tech vendors including Sun, Oracle, and Microsoft. But this week at its Impact 2008 Smart SOA conference in Las Vegas, Big Blue released a new set of tools to help enterprises thoroughly prepare and plan for a SOA implementation.

IBM reported that it has experience with about 6,500 SOA deployments and it recently commissioned a study of those deployments by the IBM Academy of Technology, which discovered that the biggest issue clients had with implementing SOA was not having "the right architecture blueprint in place with an eye to future growth."

Some of the specific SOA challenges that were cited were:

  • Ensuring the architecture is able to handle major changes in demands on infrastructure after implementing SOA
  • Melding business goals with IT goals to enable future growth
  • Build on the skills, culture and management systems that exist within the business today and what is planned for the future
  • Maintaining end-to-end operational visibility
  • Ensuring scalability and process integrity

Elizabeth Smith, general manager of IBM Global Technology Services, said, "We've learned how to help build a successful SOA by checking the fitness all through the journey. In stressing the architecture first, IBM can help clients avoid potential difficulties in the strengthening of their SOA."

Here are the new SOA tools IBM unveiled this week (quoted from the official announcement):

  • The Infrastructure Architecture Healthcheck for SOA - The new healthcheck service provides readiness assessments for the infrastructure architecture - one for those about to start a SOA project and one for those who are extending their SOA environment. This will help clients look at both the functional and non-functional requirements for their infrastructure using "what-if" scenarios provided by the Performance and Capacity Evaluation Service (PACES) running on an IBM cloud computing platform and SOA PARA-medic.
  • SOA Architecture Decision Accelerator - Leveraging new Web 2.0 tools developed with IBM research, new decision models help our service practitioners speed planning with documented best practices. A client version with templates for people to download and use is also available to help architects ensure they have the right blueprint.
  • Infrastructure Events Management and Monitoring - A new service that provides clients with a full end-to-end view of the environment - what's going on in the infrastructure and what issues may need to be addressed in real time.
  • Automated Testing Facility for SOA - Enables clients to automate the provisioning of testing equipment and validation of new services. The facility can help reduce manual tasks, eliminate common mistakes and deploy services faster. It also provides clients with a view of possible impacts to the infrastructure ahead of deployment.
  • IBM SOA Integration Services - Enhanced services for process integrity that can provide a cohesive SOA across the enterprise. IBM SOA Integration Services pull together components from multiple vendors and enable them to work as a single system. IBM experts can provide implementation support for any SOA deployment from pilot projects to complex engagements across the full enterprise.

Bottom line for IT leaders

After attending IBM's Impact SOA conference this week, I was very surprised and impressed to see how many companies are actually working on real world SOA implementations. I have always thought of SOA as primarily a marketing term and something that didn't have much of a street cred with IT departments. I changed my opinion this week.

However, IT leaders should keep in mind that SOA is not a technology. It is more of an approach to delivering business applications. As such, IBM's new tools are primarily consulting services, albeit useful ones if you're thinking about making the jump to a SOA-powered IT environment.