I'm certain it was a complete coincidence that the power went off in Los Angeles yesterday, where Microsoft was discussing its Web Services play at its Professional Developers Conference. If you happen to be a Microsoft customer, I want to assure you that I can entirely account for my whereabouts, and was nowhere near the state of California (or any of its power sub-stations) -- although it's a fine state and I have many good friends there.
There was something harmonically convergent about some of the issues being discussed, however, particularly in light of several new products IBM announced today regarding our service-oriented architecture strategy (better known in industry parlance as "SOA"). For those of you less familiar with the SOA concept, or what it represents, let me briefly characterize it, then promptly pass you along to some key IBM resources related to our announcement where you can get more familiarized with the concept and IBM's SOA roadmap.
First, a quick look at the key on demand business drivers. Many organizations today, by force of an insanely competitive business environment and the need to maximize the return of every dollar invested, need to increase their business flexibility so that they can grow or contract their business based on customer demand. They also need better and more timely (read: integrated) access to information, so that they can both respond to external threats and take advantage of emerging market opportunities. IBM's Business Consulting Services team discovered in a recent survey that 90% of CEOs expect to make a transformation to provide such capabilities within the next 5 years.
Unfortunately, many existing IT systems were not architected with such flexibility in mind. They were vertical building blocks (infrastructures, applications, etc.) that often sprouted up in isolation of one another, serving a very specific purpose at a very specific point in time. Nothing wrong with them -- they just evolved under very different business conditions and externalities than the more discordant environment that many organizations face today.
SOA is about reorganizing information resources to be independent, reusable services -- ones built in an inherently adaptable environment and architected with open, standard protocols that allow them to be used independently of their underlying platforms. In other words, built using standards that allow interoperability and the ability to be more easily evolved and reused, and most importantly, created in the context of specific business processes. That way, like IT LEGOs, they can be mixed and matched to more readily address specific business problems or conditions that can emerge suddenly, and often with no significant warning. Think new market entrant, the influx of a major and demanding customer, or yes, even a hurricane. You are only as flexible as your IT infrastructure is adaptable.
For an SOA wide shot, visit our IBM Service-Oriented Architecture page, which includes links to a number of useful SOA resources. Also, note that WebSphere general manager Robert LeBlanc will host an informative September 20th Webcast to provide a more detailed view into IBM's SOA strategy.
And if you can't wait that long to get started, click over to our SOA Self-Assessment to discern your current state of SOA adoption and obtain a set of targeted recommendations as to how you can achieve great business flexibility through SOA.