May 12, 2005, 8:52 AM — Lawson Software Inc. will work with IBM Corp. to develop new service oriented architecture (SOA) interfaces to its line of business application software, the two companies announced Wednesday.
Lawson will make IBM's WebSphere middleware software the foundation for its SOA-enabled platform, code-named "Project Landmark," said Dean Hager, Lawson's chief product officer. The first Landmark components, which include Lawson's financial, supply chain management, and human resources software, will begin shipping within the next year, he said.
SOA applications are designed in such a way that different parts of the application can operate independently of each other. Because of this design, any one feature can be changed without breaking other parts of the application.
This makes an SOA architecture much more responsive to changing business requirements than traditional software development, where one feature change could derail an entire application, said Steve Mills, senior vice president of IBM's software group.
The ideas behind SOA have been around for a "long time," but advances in Internet standards and software development tools have now made them easier to develop, he said.
"Our view at IBM is that we've reached yet another inflection point in the technology industry," Mills said. "If I want to run my business around the business processes, then I need an underlying application infrastructure that's responsive to that."
The Lawson partnership solves problems for both IBM and Lawson, said Bob Anderson, an analyst with Gartner Inc. "Lawson was in the position of being a big vendor in the ERP market without a big commitment to SOA, and knowing they couldn't do it on their own," he said. "IBM did not have a major business applications vendor that was fully committed (to its architecture)."
A heated race for leadership in the SOA space has developed over the past 18 months, with IBM, Oracle Corp., Microsoft Corp., and SAP AG all pushing their respective products in this direction, Anderson said. But SOA is still in its early days, he said. "There's still a lot of execution that we have in front of us," he said.
One customer that has taken the plunge is Fireman's Fund Insurance Co., which has awarded IBM a $94 million contract to adapt Fireman's 500 internal applications to an SOA. The transition will reduce the insurance company's total number of applications to 143 and is projected to save Fireman's Fund $200 million over the next 10 years, according to Chief Information Officer Fred Matteson.
IBM has already moved Fireman's Fund's seven billing systems to a SOA, and the company's insurance quote system is expected to be converted next month, Matteson said.