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IBM to recast much of its infrastructure software, services as SOA

Starting Tuesday, IBM will make a series of announcements recasting much of its middleware, data and transaction software as SOA-oriented packages and services.

IBM is getting ready to roll out a series of new packages, programs and services designed to present its products and the most comprehensive and capable service-oriented architecture (SOA) product in the industry.

The core of the effort is a repackaging and enhancement of IBM's SOA products and components. It will highlight the products and efforts of SOA-certified partner companies and present more coherent, easy-to-use packages of its Express and other middleware packages designed to connect easily to IBM's SOA "engine" – the Websphere Application Server.

The packages will feature solutions catalogs with applications from both IBM and partners, according to one source briefed on the announcements.

IBM's services executives will also play an important role, though the company is expected to emphasize cooperation with the channel, rather than competition, in delivering marketing and implementing SOA systems.

The events will be spread out over almost a week and will be relentlessly business-focused. A video IBM created to create buzz before the launch dramatizes security and business problems with nary a mention of technology.

While the tone is designed to appeal to business sensibilities, most of the program enhancements, products and announcements are aimed at systems integrators and resellers, sources said.

Channel companies are the ones who will have to put together the components and sell the customers on the idea that mainframes are hip enough for Web-era applications, the sources said.

That's one major reason behind the new SOA integrator certification and education program the company will roll out.

Another is that IBM has trouble reaching down into the mid-market companies that form the bulk of the potential market for SOA on the z-Series and all its components.

IBM is putting a billion dollars a year into development of SOA products, marketing and support, according to Sandy Carter, vice president for SOA, WebSphere marketing, strategy and channels.

"We can't be successful without partners," Carter told during an interview about the SOA market in general. "They're important because of the connection point that SOA drives between business and IT. Whatever they're doing is a business task. It has to be customized with the expertise that an RSI (regional systems integrator) can bring.

IBM's SOA partner community grew from zero to 2500 in the last year, thanks largely to the focus IBM has put on recruitment, Carter said.

The technology hasn't suffered, either. Within the last year IBM has shipped a better-performing version of the CICS transaction server that includes both XML and Web service functionality. It also shipped the IBM System z Application Assist Processors (zAAPs), which allow JAVA applications to operate on a mainframe, as well as the more traditional COBOL and PL/1. It is also working on an integration between CICS Service Flow and Websphere Process server, which could allow applications on each platform to launch processes on the other. And it shipped an interface between its Information Management Server (IMS) and the Simple Object Application Protocol (SOAP) to make it even easier to connect mainframe and distributed data and processes. In May Carter told James Governor of the analyst company Redmonk that z/OS customers who installed zAAPs had managed the same amount of Java application processing, but at a processing-power savings of between 40% and 80%.

Sales of the WebSphere Application Server (WAS) on System z grew 21% last year and is in "double-digit growth" for 2006, Carter wrote.

While much of the development has been to bring the z-Series up to speed as an SOA platform, the effort is much more broad-based than just one platform, according to an IBM spokeswoman.

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