Big Blue offers interoperable SOA products

IBM has announced 27 new and enhanced service-oriented architecture products and 11 services

An IBM customer says Big Blue's new line of service-oriented architecture (SOA) products announced Wednesday will help his company minimize interoperability challenges.

"Companies like ours buy software from different vendors. These packages often do not speak the same language," said Tracy Legrand, chief architect for the financial planning firm Ameriprise Financial Inc. in Minneapolis. However, he said, "the SOA products recently released by IBM have built-in interoperability."

Meanwhile, Big Blue said its new SOA products would further expand its footprint in the field. In total, IBM announced 27 new and enhanced products and 11 services.

The release focuses on four key areas: preparing IT systems for SOA deployment, use of business process management (BPM) to reap benefits from SOA, improved governance, and creating industry-specialized SOA services.

SOA is an approach to building applications and organizing various IT resources so these products act to provide the specific services an organization needs.

Legrand, who participated in the IBM-sponsored briefing, said until now, his company had also used certain products from other vendors to augment IBM's SOA line. However, he did not specify which products.

He said SOA technology helps Ameriprise better manage its business processes such as automated trade, generating monthly reports and cross-indexing mutual funds. Ameriprise uses IBM WebSphere Business Integration software to route messages, along with WebSphere Application Server to integrate the company's various applications.

With more than US$11 billion in assets, Ameriprise is the fourth largest financial advisory firm in the U.S. Legrand said SOA products helps his company link 11 lines of business such as investment, banking and insurance to over two million clients, and more than 12,000 advisors throughout 3,500 officers in the country.

IBM has invested more than US$300 million in 2006 to develop SOA products, according to Steve Mills, senior vice-president and group executive for IBM Software Group. He said there are some 3,000 IBM SOA customers and 2,500 business partners.

A recent industry survey by Forrester Research Inc. of Cambridge, Mass. indicates that SOA is gaining traction in the enterprise market.

The desire to improve IT systems efficiency in a multi-vendor environment, and reduce costs are among the biggest drivers of adoption.

A recent study by the IBM think tank, Institute for Business Value, revealed that 92 per cent of the company's customers deployed SOA to reduce costs. Fifty-one per cent of the customers who adopted this technology said they saw a growth in revenue.

According to an analyst, IBM's announcement Wednesday is significant -- not so much for number of products released -- but more because it implies that Big Blue is committed to "infusing SOA" throughout business processes.

"IBM already has the biggest footprint in the SOA market. This release reinforces the idea that SOA needs to be infused and integrated into every aspect of the business process," said Randy Heffner, an analyst with Forrester Research.

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