IBM making $1 billion bet on SOA

IBM has invested over US$1 billion on service-oriented architecture acquisitions

Much like a spouse reaffirming marital vows, IBM recommitted itself wholeheartedly last week to SOA -- for better or worse.

As befits a public declaration of passion, Big Blue brought along gifts to brush away any lingering doubts about its commitment to the service-oriented architecture model, including a brand-new WSSR (WebSphere Services Registry and Repository).

As users start to move beyond their first SOA pilots and look to widen their use of the new architectural approach, access to a registry/repository becomes increasingly vital to ensure the success of those projects, said David Cearley, vice president of research at Gartner. Customers need to have a central place where they can store the metadata about their services and carry out SOA governance.

Larger vendors have already gobbled up the pure-play registry/repository players Flashline, Infravio, and Systinet. Cearley predicts further consolidation ahead. After Hewlett-Packard closes its pending acquisition of Mercury Interactive, an IT management software and services company, HP will own the Systinet registry/repository. In August, BEA Systems bought Flashline; last month webMethods snapped up Infravio.

LogicLibrary, although still independent, announced a worldwide reseller agreement with IBM Global Services last week that will allow IBM Global Services to resell and provide services for LogicLibrary's Logidex registry/repository and design time governance product.

In time, the company could be a natural acquisition target for Oracle, said Ronald Schmelzer, senior analyst at ZapThink.

IBM's other main SOA competitors -- notably BEA Systems, HP, and SAP -- are, like Oracle, software vendors with a strong presence in middleware.

HP's SOA offerings appear more focused on a subset of SOA around management and governance, Cearley said. It's not clear what SAP will do -- adopt IBM's approach and build its own registry/repository or, less likely, acquire one, Schmelzer said.

With IBM's reaffirmation to SOA, Schmelzer sees echoes of the company's wholehearted embrace of e-business in the mid-'90s, which manifested itself across every segment of Big Blue's business.

"It's the same level of commitment," Schmelzer said, pointing to the more than US$1 billion IBM is investing in SOA-related areas this year.

"Clearly, IBM's expecting a multibillion dollar return on its investment," Schmelzer added.

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