Yesterday, I posted news about SOA Software buying a company's internally built mainframe CICS-to-Web-services platform to offer on a commercial basis to the broader market. SOA Software had announced that it was acquiring Merrill Lynch's X4ML Mainframe Web services platform, as well as the people that built and maintain the system.
NetworkWorld's Ann Bednarz also took a look at the acquisition from another perspective, noting that this is indicative of an interesting trend: that of IT shops selling their software to outside buyers. It seems to be a win-win proposition. The vendor gets a product that is already enterprise tested and proven, the company gets some extra cash for its non-strategic IT assets, and employees potentially have a chance to partake in a more entrepreneurial opportunity.
I've seen examples in the past where financial institutions have created technology products, and then made those products available to other banks, as a way of recouping up-front investments and minimizing maintenance costs.
Bednarz adds some cautionary notes about selling off IT projects, noting that employees may not be ready for more entrepreneurial settings, or a highly customized product may not be adaptable to broader markets. Patent issues may also derail a product spin-off.
However, as Web services and SOA become a large part of IT infrastructures, one fact is unavoidable: that we're all becoming both consumers and producers of services. And the services we produce for our internal operations may be just as suitable for consumption by an outside party. Some entrepreneurial thinkers in this space, such as StrikeIron's Bob Brauer, are working on pricing models for Web services sold on a per-transaction basis.
Perhaps the day is not far off when we'll all be offering at least pieces of our applications out to a broader market.