It's hard to find a software vendor that aligns to services oriented architectures (SOAs) that isn't in full seduction mode right now when it comes to enterprise consultants and integrators.
Whether you're a best of breeder, open source supporter, or a stack master, the role of professional services for ushering SOAs into fruition has put a new sheen on the "ecology" approach to markets and sales. SOA is not only a team sport, it's a group of teams sport, which means that consultants -- from McKinsey types right down to your copy machine repair person -- could have an influence on how SOAs pan out, account by account, vertical by vertical, region by region.
What's more, few vendors other than the Big Software Five (IBM, Microsoft, Oracle, HP, and SAP) can muster the existing account penetration, or mobilize global sales forces in the tens of thousands, to effectively hand-hold enterprises as they consider how to embark on the SOA journey.
For the rest of the software industry -- literally thousands of companies -- they will need to sell via each other, in concert, to enter these accounts meaningfully. If a single company can't have 5,000 salespeople, perhaps an ecology of partners between them can. The various entrants to the accounts will pull in their partner ecology behind them. And the entrants of the day are the professional services folks, of all stripes. Consultants can be the sharpest point on the SOA-aligned vendors ecology arrow.
So I looked at the recent partner program announcement by SOA Software, Inc. as a harbinger of what's to come: a lot more emphasis on the "friends" approach to SOA. The new message is, "Don't just consider me, but look at all my friends when it comes to your SOA support decisions. ... Oh, and my friends are better than their friends. Please do meet my friends, especially those smarties over there with the SOA methodologies."
This takes the solution sell to an even higher level. But if it's done well, the whole-greater-than-the-sum-of-the-parts go-to-market approach will be very efficient, in a Darwinian sense -- even if consultant-driven ecologies do place a lot of king-maker power into the hands of the consultants.
This group of teams approach should foster meritocracies and agility. Members of the team will come and go based on the betterment and survival of the group. More importantly, the teams approach should make heterogeneity an asset -- not a liability -- and that's what SOAs are all about. The ecology approach also gives open source code a strong shot at being involved with the maturation of SOA from the get-go.
Why? If you're a consultancy, and you can choose between licensed proprietary products and open source alternatives -- and you can determine perfectly well which works well enough -- which will you go with and support? You'll go with the best value, sure enough. And you can pass the savings on to your clients while maintaining the margins you need to remain innovative and prosperous. Open source alternatives will makes some teams strong, and the market will decide. The market may well also contribute back to the open source code base, more than it would a commercial vendor alone.
SOA Software added a boost to its ecology with the June 4 launch of its SOA Software Consulting Partner Program, which partners SOA Software with eight professional service providers. The goal is to deliver consulting, training, support, and development assistance to large enterprises deploying SOA solutions. These consulting companies become part of SOA Software's 35-member partner network that encompasses such other areas as platforms, technology, and resellers.
SOA Software says its customer base serves 100 of the Fortune 1000 companies, provides closed-loop governance, central policy management, lifecycle management, SOA security and management, and can mediate between different standards and ESBs. That may be a big chunk of the SOA story, but it's not all. Winners in providing it all well may turn out to be those that partner best. Just as SOAs require good sportsmanship in the enterprise, SOAs may also encourage it in the supply side as well.
Isn't that a fascinating concept?
Professional service organizations joining the new SOA Software partner program include:
- AZORA, Sunnyvale, CA, a provider of SOA architectural services;
- Omnikron, Los Angeles, CA, a technology resource provider;
- Tekmark Global Systems, Edison, NJ, a provider of information technology, communications and consulting services;
- eCube Systems, LLC, Montgomery, TX, providing evolution and transformation solutions for legacy systems; and