IBM Partners Add Management Strength For SOAs

IBM Global Services (IGS) on Thursday added a little more muscle to its services-oriented architecture (SOA) initiative by signing up two new partners and broadening its portfolio with new technical capabilities.

The new partners, Actional and DataPower, hope to bring a couple of different management capabilities to the SOA Management Practice that Big Blue launched last year. The IBM Practice is intended to expand SOA management ecosystems through a select set of vendor software products that complement IBM solutions already in place.

"We think by teaming up with IBM Global Services we can help our customers transform their businesses faster and give them more business agility while continuing to cut IT costs," says Jim Ricotta, DataPower's CEO and president. "I think we share a vision of a mature approach to SOA, which goes beyond single, stove-piped products or technology-first thinking, to focus instead on the business drivers and the agile network."

IGS plans to integrate and sell Actional's Looking Glass and SOAPstation products, which have the ability to transform heterogeneous environments and services beyond those of SOAP and XML. IGS will resell DataPower's line of policy-based management functions for legacy and XML transaction flows.

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During the past year or two, systems management has increasingly become a key factor in IT shops deciding to deploy SOAs, according to IBM officials, along with selecting competent partners to help such shops properly implement them.

"We see customers' greatest concern, especially as they expand from pilot projects to enterprisewide SOA deployments, is management and governance. Customers now need assurance that they are working with trusted partners and proven technology," says Michael Liebow, vice president of SOA and Web services at IGS.

Some analysts believe systems management will be important as companies begin to implement SOAs that truly span the breadth of their companies. But with the vast majority of larger companies still at the proof-of-concept stage, analysts think most users do not necessarily need industrial-strength management capabilities yet.

"So far, many companies have started small with SOAs and have kept the management of their services in-house because there is not really any clear offering from service providers," says Sophie Mayo, director of worldwide services and services-oriented architectures for IDC in Framingham, Mass. "For most, not having management in place would not prevent many from getting into an SOA."

Besides management capabilities for SOAs, the other role of the SOA Management Practice is the creation of SOA management assets, which is a combination of software code, best practices and intellectually property used to supplement traditional, purely manual labor-based IT services. These assets are delivered through the Common Services Delivery Platform, which is based on the WebSphere based SOA Foundation, an IBM official says.

The newly expanded SOA Management Practice is designed to work hand-in-glove with IGS' SOA Governance capability, which aids IT shops in extending SOAs across an enterprise in a more controlled way, company officials say.

The first partners IGS signed up for its SOA Management Practice were SOA Software and Amberpoint, both of which worked with IBM's Tivoli group to jointly create SOA-based management solutions.