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Amex sees gold in SaaS-SOA model

American Express taps into Rearden, the world's first all-SOA company.

For a compelling example of how Software as a Service and service oriented architecture is converging, look no further than Rearden Commerce. ZDNet blogging colleague Dan Farber just reported that American Express is taking a $22.5 million equity stake in the company and will be white-labeling Rearden's employee service platform for its new online business travel marketplace.

Rearden Commerce can be considered a "virtual" company that is built entirely on SOA-standard components, and brokers its online services to corporate clients.

Welcome to the world's first all-SOA company.

A little while back, I had the opportunity to chat with Mark Orttung, vice president of products for Rearden Commerce, about its SOA infrastructure. Essentially, Rearden was built from the ground up as a purely SOA-based company. "We’re a little unique in that we set out from the beginning to create an SOA, so that literally all the components that we use to build our applications are published as services," he explained. "We set out to build a stack from top to bottom as a SOA."

Rearden provides back-end processing of business queries on a subscription basis, built on a standards-based technology stack on top of a J2EE-based application server running on a Linux server farm. Rearden's entire infrastructure is based on open source software and Web services.

At the heart of Rearden's infrastructure is a set of internal services "that do common business functions that are very much reusable across all the different applications," Orttung elaborated. "For example, we do shipping of packages, we set up meetings such as Web and audio conferences, and we do travel bookings. We have a set of services that are useful across all those different application categories. Clients use it at the application layer, and folks inside our development organization take advantage of these internal services to create new applications or to extend current applications quickly."

While Rearden has signed on numerous blue-chip clients such as Sabre Travel and DHL (and now American Express of course), the company can run very lean and mean -- with a data center staff of ten, Orttung said.

The Rearden example says a ton of things about the viability of SaaS, as well as the rise of loosely coupled businesses that will broker both internal and external services to build offerings and serve markets.

UPDATE: ZDNet colleague Phil Wainewright provides a very in-depth analysis of what the Amex-Rearden Commerce deal means not only in terms of Software as a Service, but also suggests that it's a realization of the so-called "Web 3.0" or Semantic Web vision: The Rearden Commerce platform "adds the semantics to be able to correlate an individual's preferences, entitlements and circumstances with all the options available from suppliers, and present just the ones the buyer is interested in," Phil writes. Additional implications include a focus on business results, consumerization of enterprise applications, user-focused processes, and scale economies of shared services.