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Big Blue's little helpers

I caught up with IBM's Michael Liebow last week, to get more details on IBM Global Services' latest partnerships in the SOA space. Mike had seen my recent post about IBM's deluging the market with SOA announcements, and fortunately, has a good sense of humor about it -- along with appropriate levels of concern about not overpowering the market.
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Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer on

I caught up with IBM's Michael Liebow last week, to get more details on IBM Global Services' latest partnerships in the SOA space. Mike had seen my recent post about IBM's deluging the market with SOA announcements, and fortunately, has a good sense of humor about it -- along with appropriate levels of concern about not overpowering the market.

Forming partnerships with SOA vendors is an interesting exercise for a huge company such as IBM because, well, most SOA vendors are quite small.  And, as Mike admitted, few actually have customers. "There are a lot of companies that say they’re in the SOA space. There are a lot of companies that have interesting chartware, and maybe some interesting code, but they don’t necessarily have any customers. There’s a little bit of a gap. I want to work with young companies, but maybe not that young. They’ve got to be out of diapers."

IBM's decision to partner with DataPower for XML performance and security technology struck me as an interesting choice. DataPower is a little different from other SOA companies, in that they sell hardware devices that sit on the network.

Earlier in the year, I had the opportunity to do a Q&A (posted here) with Eugene Kuznetsov, founder, chairman, and CTO of DataPower, about these devices, and their role in SOA. One value DataPower brings to the table is the ability to keep "bad XML" out of the network, he says.  The other advantage to running messages through these devices is that they can manage the potential performance issues associated with bloated XML files. "It's not just the size of the message, but the processing overhead associated with parsing, transforming, validating XML," said Kuznetsov.  

Back to IBM: Big Blue isn't trying to boost small vendors in this space to be a good big brother; it recognizes that it needs to build up its governance and management offerings before SOA really takes off. "Typically, a company like IBM Global Services doesn’t deal with vendors at such an early stage," Mike Liebow said. "But we felt it was important in terms of the SOA transformation to look at these companies."

Governance and management can't be an afterthought when it comes to SOA development, he pointed out. "You have to think of the governance aspects, in terms of how you organize, how you operationalize, how you put in management systems around an SOA and implement that, and how you’re going to manage it once it’s implemented in runtime. The whole piece has go to be holistic."

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