Jul 27, 2010

Surge of SOA Suites?

IBM_SOA_Maturity A month ago I wrote how suddenly I’m seeing a surge of interest in SOA Governance.  In an interesting follow up to that article, I found myself sitting in a vendor sales presentation for a full SOA suite of tools to a potential customer.  And this customer asked a very good question…

“We haven’t seen a lot of SOA suite sales in our region (and therefore haven’t seen many sales of your product). Why not?”

While many of the Fortune 500 and leading edge companies approached SOA with significant investment and (somewhat) serious commitment, others did not.


The innovators and early adopters have been “doing SOA” for 6-10 years.  Two things forced them into major vendor ESB products and SOA suites from the start.  First, these were the only tools (operating at an enterprise level) early on the market and they provided EAI and protocol + technology bridging that settled them into a solid enterprise IT niche.  Second, the extending of all the various development technologies into the web service space hadn’t happened yet – therefore the major tools were the only way to “do SOA”.

The majority of adopters (from the charge above) have had other options.  Various containers and servers extended to provide parts of SOA functionality.  EAI tools and gateway tools that provide parts of ESB functionality.  A variety of small vendor SOA tools and even open source projects to fill in function needs.

As such, before investing hundreds of thousands of dollars (or more!) in a major SOA suite and major implementation effort, most IT shops (particularly where I am located, a small country) have started with small tools.  These departmental sized tools have allowed them to get their feet wet with SOA without the large investment risk of a major suite and associated implementation project.

Suddenly though, as with my article on Governance, many of these IT shops are finding they’re hitting the capacity and capability limits of these departmental tools.  Having been “doing SOA” for 2-4 years and hitting the 100-300 major service range, the more limited SOA tools hit reliability and performance problems, lack capabilities for managing the library of services (at design time or, more importantly in this case, at runtime), don’t do much about security, are harder to use than the visual design and scripting oriented SOA suite tools, and don’t well integrate out into governance tools or BPM tools.

Net net, the value proposition of a SOA suite becomes apparent, and the fears of a high investment in an unknown area no longer exist as they’re already familiar with some level of SOA and looking to move up in SOA maturity (to solve developing SOA management problems and to begin to realize higher level SOA benefits).

This is good news for Software AG, IBM, Oracle, and Tibco.  But the window of opportunity is closing for Microsoft, HP, Fujitsu, Alcatel-Lucent, Progress, and others.  Niche product vendors will be dependent on how well their specialty solutions play with the major suites (examples: Layer 7, Intel SOA Expressway, Weblayers, iWay).  The jury is still out on whether the growing open source SOA suite Mule make an impact.