IBM: Building UpBy John Moore Print
IBM has parlayed its middleware background into what customers describe as a broad set of service-oriented architecture (SOA) products and services.
IBM's MQSeries middleware became an application integration linchpin for many enterprises during the 1990s. The vendor has since retooled its products for an SOA environment, adopting Web services standards, which software firms use to increase interoperability between disparate systems. The company has also added to its product line via acquisition: Last year IBM purchased Webify, an Austin, Texas, company that makes software for building service-oriented architectures, for an undisclosed amount.
WinterGreen Research, a Lexington, Mass.-based market research firm, cites IBM as the market leader in SOA infrastructure, with a 53% market share.
A large portion of IBM's SOA offering resides under WebSphere, integration middleware that encompasses IBM's enterprise service bus and message broker products. WebSphere also covers application server and service registry elements.
Other product families also play a part. Rational, for example, provides tools for creating services, while Tivoli offers software for managing SOA deployments.
Vijay Sonty, chief information officer at Broward County (Fla.) Public Schools, calls IBM the "Rolls-Royce" of SOAa best-in-class solution. He also points to the breadth of IBM's offerings and the fact that the school system has been an IBM shop for years.
Sonty says not every customer needs a Rolls-Royce solution, but notes that Broward County Public Schools required middleware capable of bringing together 300-plus applications and a "world-class portal" to provide an on-ramp for administrators, teachers and students. Sonty and his team are using IBM's WebSphere to provide a middleware layer that enables unified access to legacy applications.
The school system is pursuing its SOA-driven integration project in phases. Phase one, completed last year, involved the creation of a portal for administrators and guidance counselors that brought together the district's student information system and data warehouse.
Ameriprise Financial, meanwhile, brought in IBM to help unify its account administration systems so customers could more readily move funds from one account to another.
Tracy LeGrand, chief architect and vice president of technology strategy and architecture at Ameriprise Financial, says one of the reasons the company went with IBM for SOA was the firm's software and service scope.
As Ameriprise pursued the services approach, IBM provided its WebSphere MQ and WebSphere Business Integration for standards-based integration. Ameriprise designed services with Rational software.
According to LeGrand, IBM's current SOA product set contrasts with its previous lineup, which left gaps in places such as a service registry, which is used to keep track of the services available to internal developers. IBM last October announced an expansion of its service-oriented architecture offerings, which had focused on the integration and middleware aspects of the category. Additions to IBM's portfolio include business process management software and a registry.
Still, IBM's extensive portfoliothe company lists 23 offerings on its SOA Web pagecan prove difficult to navigate, according to Sonty, who would like IBM to communicate a big-picture message on how it intends to bring its products together.
"They clearly need to do a better job of packaging and explaining how five software divisions work together," he says. "The message is not there."
Sandy Carter, vice president of SOA and WebSphere strategy, channels and marketing at IBM, says Big Blue aims to reach customer groups who want different levels of product integration. Some customers, she says, take a do-it-yourself approach, while others want IBM's SOA technology packaged together so it's easier to get started.
*For first three months ended March 21, 2007. Fiscal year ends December 31.
Source: Company Reports
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