IBM Looks to Leverage SOA Roots into Cloud


SOA is a $3.3 billion to $28 billion industry -- depending upon who's calculating it-and it's only expected to grow. And the dominate player in that industry is IBM, which holds 70 percent of the SOA infrastructure business, according to a recent TMCnet article.

Once you know that IBM is a leading, perhaps even the dominant SOA vendor, it's easier to understand why Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive of the IBM Software Group, is so adamant about SOA's value proposition. Or why IBM can afford to do something as frivolous (given the low attendance at tech conferences these days) as to hire comedian Billy Crystal to open the IBM Impact Smart SOA Conference 2009 in Las Vegas this week.


Why IBM? The TMCnet article suggests it's IBM's SOA-enabling middleware, which is flexible enough to accommodate local needs but robust enough to "create worldwide integrated enterprise." It also hasn't hurt that IBM built its own SOA from the ground up, a venture that proved useful as a marketing tool as well as an IT experiment.


IBM certainly isn't resting on its laurels. Just last month, IBM unveiled the first game world that's built using SOA, a virtual re-creation of China's historical Forbidden City. It was created in conjunction with the Forbidden City museum, and it's composed entirely of Web services. It's an awesome gift to the world, available for free to the world's teachers, students and curious virtual tourists.


The experience was so impressive, several of the people I toured with immediately pinged the PR contacts to ask how they could buy the platform.


IBM's next move with SOA seems to be to the clouds, according to the buzz coming out of Impact 2009.


It's been noted that internal cloud solutions look suspiciously like SOA infrastructure repackaged. And that shouldn't surprise anyone, because let's face it-using SOA as the architecture for cloud applications makes perfect sense. As Judith Hurwitz, head of Hurwitz Associates, told TechTarget:

"As we move out of the world of traditional packaged applications into a much more service-oriented one, where components are linked together to create value, creating the build becomes even more important."

IBM promises its new WebSphere CloudBurst Appliance will make deploying and managing those components and services easier. CloudBurst ships with out-of-the-box virtual images and patterns, according to TechTarget.


The idea of an appliance, with its implied simplicity, will no doubt prove appealing to many. And it could be a way to leverage more value from existing SOA investments - as IT Business Edge's Arthur Cole noted, if you already have an SOA infrastructure in place, CloudBurst "should allow you to branch into the cloud with relative ease."


The question is, will CloudBurst help IBM translate those lucrative SOA roots into the equally promising cloud? It's possible, as David Linthicum recently observed, that IBM may be too big to really leverage the nimble, new cloud computing market. But at this point, the odds, along with money and influence, certainly seem to be in IBM's favor.