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SOA Is The Way Of The Future, Says IBM

Eric is a veteran British tech journalist, currently editing ChannelBiz for NetMediaEurope. With expertise in security, the channel, and Britain’s startup culture, through his TechBritannia initiative

IBM concentrated on SOA at its Impact 2011 conference in Las Vegas

Companies should use systems oriented architectures (SOA) to get processes running across a business, and business process management (BPM) to adapt to new business conditions, IBM told its Impact 2011 conference in Las Vegas this week.

In his second day keynote, Steve Mills, senior vice president and group executive of IBM Software stressed the importance of enabling SOA by allowing processes to run across a business, whatever the physical architecture may be. This requires applications that adhere to open standards, he warned, adding that the temptation to introduce “siloed” packaged applications with proprietary interfaces and data structures is a temptation that should be avoided.

Robust SOA Infrastructure

Mills (pictured) said that the software implementation duplication and integration problems that a silo approach brings creates waste in terms of time and money.

“A typical business spends 70 to 80 percent of its budget running existing systems,” he claimed. “This means 2,000 to 3,000 programs running on huge numbers of servers. Business agility requires a robust SOA infrastructure. We at IBM have worked on helping build a complete infrastructure because we understood our customers wanted to tie a lot of services together and to have flexible, high-performing infrastructures. In return, this can help organisations to build less, reuse more, and realise significant economic benefit by bringing down the cost of execution.”

After extolling the virtues of SOA and business process management (BPM), Mills gave way to Phil Gilbert, vice president of BPM for the  IBM Software Group. Though Gilbert was charged with introducing the new release of Business Process Manager (version 7.5), he decided to pep up the action by placing the release in context of where SOA will lead companies in the future.

He opened by saying that there will be 50 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2020. This will open up new revenue opportunities for companies.

“Over the next five years, 20 percent of a company’s revenues are going to come from [as yet] unknown sources,” he predicted.

Critical Path Visualisation

The reason for this is that new devices and improved software combined with analytics will reveal business opportunities that have been locked away in data systems. Gilbert (pictured) then demonstrated how the new version of Business Process Manager has been improved to allow critical path visualisation to offer the agility that these changes will bring.

Version 7.5 has a drag and drop facility that gives features similar to project management software when schedules need to be changed because of problems or altered deadlines. Simply by changing dates, the BPM software automatically updates interreliant elements in a schedule to reflect the impact that change will have.

After a customer panel discussion, Scott Klososky, described as an independent consultant and entrepreneur, gave his view of the role leadership will play in the application of SOA .

He started by saying that leadership has always relied on an individual’s or team’s ability to accurately predict future trends. This has always been so but the last ten years have been the age of “low beam” leaders, he said. By this he was drawing an analogy to dipped headlights on a car.

“Low beam leaders take a twelve-month view of the road ahead,” he explained. “What we need now are high beam leaders who look ahead five to ten years in the future to plan a course for business development. Companies can no longer afford to be reactive to advances made by their competitors, they will fail to keep up with the changes that are to come. High beam leaders can see what changes need to be made today to position a company for the changes that will be forced on them in the future.”

Towards A Connected Planet

Klososky also described the path that has been followed so far in the move towards a “smarter planet”, IBM’s current theme for business development. Starting with version 1.0 where businesses connected to other businesses, he said we have reached a phase where people are wired into this schema.

Now, we are bringing new devices such as smartphones and technologies such as social networks into this connected world. The next phase, version 4.0, he believes, will be applying intelligence to all of the connections made to discover trends as they begin to form.

The keynote meeting then concluded as delegates moved out of the conference hall and into the Solutions Centre to catch a glimpse of what the future may hold. This included a chance to see Watson, IBM’s super-intelligent analytics supercomputer, challenging all comers to a battle of wits and knowledge based on the US TV game show Jeopardy.