SOA Insights analysts examine iPhone for enterprises, Wall Street's take on SOA for profit

I don’t see anything terribly revolutionary in the iPhone, other than the fact that it comes from the Steve Jobs godhead. There’s no doubt that Apple does great design, does a great marketing, and does a great zeitgeist. They made a splash with the Newton and look what happened there. What in the iPhone is not already being used in corporate environments in a major way? People are carrying their iPods into the office and using them to listen to podcasts, or using their cell phones. They’ve already got mobile messaging and mobile browsers in a variety of devices that they’re using.

Read a full transcript of the podcast.

This week's BriefingsDirect SOA Insights Edition, Vol. 8, tackles two meaty issues: Whether SOA as a trend will make more money for IT vendors and systems integrators, and which ones.

Our panel of IT analysts also debate the role of the forthcoming Apple iPhone -- is this a convergence tool for the enterprise, or just a plaything for well-to-do geeks?

The panel this week consists of Steve Garone, Joe McKendrick, Neil Ward-Dutton, Jim Kobielus and Trip Chowdhry, with myself as the host and moderator.

Here are some excerpts:
On SOA as Profit Center

So far, our research shows that NetWeaver and SAP, and some other vendors, have very complicated messages, which CIOs are now struggling to understand.
 
That is going to create some sort of a downward pressure near-term in SOA-based initiatives from a business and financial point of view. From a technology adoption point of view and a trials point of view, SOA is definitely a trend, but it seems like the messaging, the product, and everything else need to be simplified, so that people can know how one initiative can correlate and coexist with other initiatives they have going.

The pushback I'm getting is that the problem with SOA is that it’s a constant evolution of various standards. First, it was SOAP; then, REST, and then the whole community debate about which protocol is good and which is not. Whenever there is so much discussion going on, people step back and say, "Let them figure it out. Maybe I'll put money into it next year."

In many ways, the number-one opportunity that SOA presents for vendors are for those vendors that can reduce the complexity by providing SOA suites of software and other components, and secondarily those vendors, those service providers, who can provide SOA and integration best practices to enterprise customers.

So, how do you shrink-wrap SOA? Well, these suites -- from the likes of SAP/NetWeaver, Oracle, IBM, Microsoft, etc. -- implement all the piece-parts of SOA, the portals, the app servers, the databases, and the UDDI registries. Next, the Accentures of the world provide the warm bodies and warm brains of professional services to crunch this complexity down into greater simplicity, and deliver end-to-end integrated solutions that leverage the largesse that an SOA universe provides.

...When I speak to these CIOs, they don’t say "I want SOA." They say "I want to make two systems work together with the least effort." That is a change over the last year. If that’s the problem, then the solutions could be many.
 
That’s one thing that we’re seeing. Then, of course, the Apache Foundation has its own product called ServiceMix, which is given out free, and JBoss coming out with its own SOA. Then, we have these commercial companies including BEA Systems, webMethods, and TIBCO, which have commercial offerings that are still on a license model. If you look at the various kind of plays in the market, one is software-as-a-service (SaaS).
 
You have open-source alternatives like ServiceMix and JBoss, and then you have commercial pairs. Investors hate it when there is uncertainty, and there is no clear winner. Right now, there is no clear winner who can say, "Here is SOA." As someone on this panel mentioned, there is no product called SOA. You have a product called "database," but SOA is still a concept. And Wall Street is having a tough time putting a valuation or momentum behind SOA. Wall Street is thinking that any company that is in a  disastrous situation evolves to be in "SOA."

Now, from an investor point of view, they see confusion and uncertainty, and when that occurs, they stay on the sidelines.

SOA does not create a whole pot of money to dive into. What it’s doing, because it’s a flavor of technology that’s being baked into existing upgrade cycles, is to create a replacement market. SOA-related technologies are replacing others.

So over time there might be a bump in overall IT spending in order to actualize and realize SOA advantages, but once they are realized, the total amount of money required for IT should go down. This means a smaller pie for the vendors, which means vendors will be fighting over a smaller total marketplace, and we can expect some of the bigger players to perhaps have an advantage there.

... The question is, Who will benefit? Would it be software product vendors or would it be system integrators and consultants? I think there will be in two phases. The first phase would be the system integrators and consultants will win, because I think when we speak to the CIOs, anybody who can help them understand the mess gets the money. In the long term, software vendors may make money relatively or literally more than the SIs, because they may automate and simplify many of these processes. But net-net I think SOA is good for IT sector as a whole.

... From a business point of view, SOA is a dream come true. The only problem is that it's not mature enough for everybody to put their hands around. The biggest problem SOA has is people and vendors saying, "It’s a concept! It’s a concept!"

On Apple iPhone for Enterprises

Employees will be bringing these iPhone things into work with them, just as the cell phones and smart phones and PalmPilots had their roots, and the PCs began back in the early 1980s -- not as a deliberate strategy of the enterprise to reach these devices. But if there’s enough of a critical-mass of employees who are using the devices -- the iPhones, in this case -- then enterprises will begin to take a second look and reach out. I don’t think enterprises are looking at it right now or will be looking at it when it’s introduced in a few months.

I don’t see anything terribly revolutionary in the iPhone, other than the fact that it comes from the Steve Jobs godhead. There’s no doubt that Apple does great design, does a great marketing, and does a great zeitgeist. They made a splash with the Newton and look what happened there. What in the iPhone is not already being used in corporate environments in a major way? People are carrying their iPods into the office and using them to listen to podcasts, or using their cell phones. They’ve already got mobile messaging and mobile browsers in a variety of devices that they’re using.

As a consumer and an individual who loves gadgets, I think it's incredibly lust-worthy. I read some of the reviews and they'd crawl over broken glass to get one. It’s not going to be cheap, but as an individual, I think it’s awesome. Someone just said, "I’ll wait six to nine months." I’ll wait six to nine years.

Actually, I did see the iPhone at Macworld and I was very impressed. ... I think there are definitely enterprise kinds of applications that could work very easily on it. That is based on the demo that I saw at Macworld. First of all, browsing is very good -- very, very good. I would say very, very impressive.

If somebody sends you an email attachment or PDF or Word file, you can see it like you'd see it on a computer. It's totally amazing. You can expand it and contract it. The visual things are very good. Instant messaging is another application, which -- at least in the financial sector -- people like to communicate with.

Someone on this panel mentioned that the feature-effects are not complete. I think down the road there will be two or three versions. One could be for teenagers, one could be for a business user edition or small business edition, and the third could be for entertainment. The IM feature, as well as email and attachments, which are very business-centric, could do very well.

IM was one of the things I feel could be a killer app. I wouldn’t believe that many of the enterprise applications, like Salesforce.com-kind of stuff or running some mobile enterprise ERP system, on this PDA would do justice to it. But you can effectively communicate with your colleagues without a lot of baggage, and have four hours of battery life and being able to carry a very small battery as a spare.

I think it’s a good form-factor that can fit in every pocket. The feature sets still needs to be sorted out, but it’s a development platform. So, third-party guys will also come out with their own platform. First step, it will be a good replacement for products like BlackBerry and others.
Listen to the entire podcast, or read the full transcript for more on iPhone in the enterprise and SOA on Wall Street.

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