IBM takes community approach to SOA

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IBM Corp. Monday is due to officially announce the first two in a planned series of eight centers around the world designed to help build up local expertise in the service-oriented architecture (SOA) approach to IT development.

The move to create so-called SOA Leadership Centers is in response to customer demand, according to Jason Weisser, vice president and chief technology officer of IBM's SOA advance technology. While IBM has already established centers in China and India focused on developing reusable industry-specific Web services, what users would like more help with is SOA education and training.

SOA is a way for organizations to both develop and manage their IT systems through reusable technologies, but trying to get that concept across to business people within a company is proving difficult for some IT departments. The centers will make SOA proof-of-concept (POC) teams available who can go to a customer and help explain the business benefits of adopting SOA and create specific proof-points for individual organizations, Weisser said.

As with other technologies, businesspeople need reassurance that SOA isn't another "flash in the pan or silver bullet" cure-all, Weisser said. They also need to see the approach working within their own organizations. From a business standpoint, SOA is like the imaginary spoon in the classic sci-fi movie "The Matrix." "There is no spoon," Weisser said. SOA is much more a representation of a philosophical way of doing things so that technology doesn't present a barrier to doing business.

The centers will also work closely with local universities advising them on how to create and develop courses on SOA development. The idea is to build up and maintain a "reservoir" of SOA expertise so there are skilled people on hand to work on local SOA deployments.

The first center to open is in Dubai Internet City, a government-run information technology park. The Dubai government asked IBM to set up the center and the vendor is working in partnership with Dubai, the United Arab Emirates and the Saudi government on the center. The center's virtual operation is already up and running and the physical location will officially open in mid-March. It will employ 26 staff, half from IBM and the other half from the vendor's partners.

Opening in March or April will be another center in La Gaude, France, the result of partnerships between IBM and a number of industries, particularly telecommunications.

In Japan, auto makers Nissan, Toyota and Honda approached IBM to set up a center which is also backed by the Japanese government. The location has yet to be determined but it should open in March or April. The location for a fourth center in Brazil has also yet to be settled on, but already has the backing of the government and IBM partners in the banking and financial industries.

IBM is also looking to open four other centers. One will be in Australia, two in China -- in Beijing and Shanghai respectively -- and the fourth will be somewhere in Central Europe, most likely Romania or the Czech Republic. IBM would hope to have most of the centers open by the end of June.

At present, the vendor has no plans for any other centers. "We'll plant the seed and see how well it grows," Weisser said.

Where is SOA as a technology? "SOA is past the infant stage," Weisser said. "It's probably into aggressive crawling." Walking is one to two years off, but SOA may move straight from "aggressive crawling to aggressive walking," he added.

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