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SOA Management: Exclusive Q & A With Michael Liebow, VP of IBM Web Services

"IBM's goal is to help customers identify a business pain point and then solve it."

Q. Michael, thank you for talking with SOA Web Services Journal. First why don’t you just briefly describe to us the overall aims and scope of IBM’s SOA Management Practice.
Michael Liebow: The IBM Global Services SOA Management Practice was launched last year to provide customers with a sophisticated and comprehensive set of management capabilities needed for successful SOA deployments.  The first partners in the Practice, SOA Software and AmberPoint, worked closely with IBM Tivoli Software to deliver comprehensive SOA management solutions.  Reflecting the success of these relationships, two new partners—Actional and DataPower—have joined the practice.   The practice is designed to expand the SOA Management ecosystem with a selected set of vendor software products that provide a broad range of SOA management capabilities that complement existing IBM solutions.  The practice has worked with dozens of customers to bridge the gap from SOA architecture and design into production implementation and operational management.
Q. How does all this tie in to the recently announced IBM Global Services SOA Governance capability?
ML: Governance and management go hand in hand.  The expanded SOA Management Practice complements IBM Global Services’ SOA Governance capability.  SOA Governance helps clients extend the planned SOA across the enterprise in a controlled manner. This new SOA Governance capability helps customers set a baseline for measuring improvements, tracking SOA projects, building a pool of skilled resources and establishing the structure for making decisions about SOA initiatives.  Additionally, this service helps keep all SOA initiatives, architectures and investments aligned to their business goals as clients seek to become on demand businesses.     

Q. What other principal companies will be offering their products through the IBM Global Services SOA management practice? 
ML:  In addition to IBM Software, our management practice at this time is limited to partnering with AmberPoint, Actional, Data Power and SOA Software.  It is important to note that Practice is not a “come one, come all” program; a call to any partner that strives for large numbers of individual firms to join.  It’s much more selective.  A detailed vetting process was conducted for partners that offered best of breed SOA management capability, a strong internal management team and a firm base of customers using their technology.  The goal of the practice is not necessarily to help the partners succeed, but to help customers solve business problems.  

Q. Does the shift to service-oriented architectures and applications make IBM’s “on demand business” philosophy even more relevant, or will that slogan be retired over time?
ML: Service Oriented Architectures are the lynch pin of any customer’s journey to become an on demand business.  An on demand business is one where its business processes are integrated end-to-end across the company as well as externally with key partners, suppliers and customers so that the company can respond with speed to any customer demand, market opportunity or external threat.  This is a journey whereby most customers are just starting out.  Service Integration is the first critical step in that journey and requires alignment of the business with IT; from the process through the app down to the metal.  It is very important that customers realize they are on a journey and create a plan, otherwise they risk expending lots of cycles without any real demonstrable gain.
Q. What metrics do you look at when gauging the progress being made by SOA in real-world terms? 
ML: Creating and gauging metrics to track the progress of an SOA in relation to business goals is a key element of our SOA Governance offering.   If focuses on how organizations apply SOA and what impact the SOA will have to the vision, mission or strategic goals that management sets for the company.  Additionally the SOA Governance offering helps organize business functions into shareable services; breaks down silos and unlocks the value of legacy systems while making software less brittle; and improves the alignment between business and IT in an SOA.  Success is measure by both the vitality of the SOA and conformance.  Vitality is measured by such hard essentials as the number of skills, the amount of asset reuse, the degree of investment, and the like.  Conformance measures the degree of compliance to specific standards, the granularity of services, the adherence to security and the like.
Q. Who are IBM’s competitors in this particular niche? Who else is bridging the gap from SOA architecture and design into production implementation and operational management?
ML: When talking about integrating a company end to end across an on demand enterprise and then extending that capability out to partners, supplier and customers, the reality is that there are dozens, perhaps even hundreds, of niche technologies required.  For example, we haven’t even discussed SOA security, federated identity or registries, areas where IBM Global Services is also teaming with IBM Software to address.  

When talking with customers our goal is not to sell them governance or management software for service oriented architectures.  IBM’s goal is to help them identify a business pain point and then solve it.  Today most often our customers are finding that an increasing number of business pain points can be resolved in an SOA and within that service oriented architecture they require the ability to manage and govern the technology.  I have many niche technology vendors clamoring to join this practice because they know that most customers aren’t interested in self-integrating a bunch of niche point solutions.  Today customers expect that solving individual business problems will also have a positive impact on the rest of the business and make it easier to solve additional business problems.  When having this type of discussion with a customer it is hard to imagine the combined capabilities of IBM Global Services and IBM Software teaming with the appropriate ecosystem of niche vendors can be matched by anyone.
Q. What are you thoughts on whether it’s perhaps time to “take the ‘Web’ out of Web services” and just talk about them as XML services?
ML:  I would submit we should lose the “XML” banner too and keep the focus on business services.  Industry standards are the most critical element to successfully deploy a service oriented architecture to become an on demand business.  The proliferation of SOA can not succeed without industry standards and the continued work being done by standards organizations such as OASIS and W3C.  XML technologies clearly play an important role here.  However, there can be instances with customers where a business service can be created using existing technologies.   Additional business services may link to the original business service created without XML, but it's not going to be required one hundred percent of the time by all customers.   Again, this is an area where we like to keep the discussion focused on the business problem and then identify the appropriate technology to use with individual customers.   This is the single greatest benefit in using an SOA.  It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach.

Q. What’s the quickest way for readers to connect with the SOA initiatives that you are involved with – a URL, for example.
ML: Your readers can link to  Here they can take a self-assessment that will generate meaningful and actionable recommendations real time as to how to embark on building out their organization's SOA.

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