Why CIOs Are Increasingly Adopting SOA

Sandy Carter, vice president of SOA, BPM and WebSphere Strategy at IBM, substantiates that despite IT budgets shrinking, CIOs are increasingly looking at SOA and BPM as one of the most preferred framework to standardize and deliver improved business processes and address the challenges of an increasingly interconnected world.


Gunjan Trivedi Jun 22nd 2009

Interview with Sandy Carter,Vice President, SOA, BPM & WebSphere Strategy, Channels and Marketing IBM Corporation. Speaking to assistant editor Gunjan Trivedi, she insisted that Service Oriented Architecture is indeed a vital component in enabling a dynamic infrastructure and is amongst the top priorities of a CIO.



  • CIOs are now far more inclined on how they can bring in agility and it is SOA is underneath projects that either strive to bring in agility or re-engineer processes.
  • SOA adoption is accelerating
  • At a recent global study CIOs on had SOA as number two on their priority list, after security

Apparently the number of CIOs adopting SOA seems to be going down. Are CIOs losing interest in SOA?

Carter: Actually, the story is a little different than what it seems. CIOs are becoming more business focused. The most insightful thing I heard substantiated this, was at a roundtable of CIOs held quite recently. As they were introducing themselves, one of them said, "Hi, I am an investment banker who focuses on IT." I think we would see more of that where CIOs are focused on the business. This means they are concentrating on whatever their challenges are and initiating a service-oriented solution to mitigate the challenge. Here, interestingly they would not say that they have embarked upon an SOA project.

We are seeing compelling reasons for people who want to adapt to change. If you define SOA as an enabler of process change, we are seeing its adoption accelerating.

CIOs are now far more inclined on how they can bring in agility. Moreover as CEOs are increasingly looking to restructure their companies, CIOs are looking closely at process improvement or re-engineering. Guess what's underneath projects that either strive to bring in agility or re-engineer processes? It's SOA. Hence, CIOs are not claiming that they have deployed an SOA project. They would rather term it as, let's say, a supply chain project built on SOA or an SOA-enabled traffic management project.

Since an SOA project always seems to be 'work in progress', are CIOs beginning to look at SOA more with a piecemeal approach?

Carter: I agree that people are deploying SOA in a slightly different way now. I'll give you an anology: when I was in Europe, I used to buy groceries every day. In US, I used to buy groceries once a week. That was the way people used to adopt SOA. They would figure out the scope of whatever they would need to embark upon a full consulting project to transform their business, and would buy for 'the whole week'. Now what we are seeing is that people would want to lay out their entire scope, but they shop 'for the day'. For work in progress projects, it allows you to pick up day's worth of groceries and not be stuck with a week's worth of groceries unnecessarily. What we are seeing is not lack of implementation, but change in the way people used to buy and deploy SOA. And, accordingly we have changed our offerings too. It seems to be working, as our first quarter results were good as we saw about 18 percent of Y-o-Y growth.

The other thing we are seeing is that different business models are being employed to cut costs down. Cloud is one of them. We have also introduced a private cloud offering. It is an appliance called WebSphere CloudBurst. Just like a library, it allows you to check out a software license, use it and put it back. So, this appliance allows you to install WebSphere in a test environment, where you can install and configure the application based on patterns and best practices. Use the application for what you need it for in the test environment, and then put the licenses back.

Did the economic slowdown slow the adoption of SOA down?

Did the economic slowdown slow the adoption of SOA down?

Carter: We are actually seeing quite the opposite. We are seeing compelling reasons for people who want to adapt to change. If you define SOA as an enabler of process change, we are seeing its adoption accelerating. We are seeing the size of deals getting smaller as the model of adopting SOA is changing. But, the number of customers is growing. I would say that slowdown is causing customers to initiate more pilot or industry-specific projects rather than large, full-fledged projects.

SMBs usually wonder whether they are complex enough to adopt SOA. How can they easily get on the SOA platform and how can they handle lack of availability of skillsets?

Carter: We can help in this. By the end of June, our BPM Blueworks would be available, which is like conducting BPM in the cloud. SMBs might want to know what would happen if we change a specific process and how to go about changing it actually. With BPM Blueworks, you don't have to buy or configure any software as you can straightaway model your BPM on the cloud. Processes, drawn on a Powerpoint slide or Visio file, can be imported in the BPM Blueworks and can simulate it. You can change the process and can figure out how will the change affect your returns on investment. You could also bring in an analyst or a University professor and collaborate with them on the process in the cloud, and export it out to be used in the business. It is a great way to get started.

We have also put a lot of our products on Amazon's cloud, EC2 to help SMBs get started on SOA. For example, our product WebSphere Smash helps you to create a widget and mash it up with an associated service in the cloud. You can test for free but if you are putting it in production, you pay. We have about 80 partners globally using WebSphere Smash on Amazon EC2. One partner in Brazil has used Smash to create a mash-up, which is a composite application for gas stations. These gas stations can go up on the cloud, where the solution provider has hosted its application as a service. It is yet another great way to get SMBs started.

The last way is our SOA Sandbox. This is a whole set of scenarios teaching you how to develop your skills on SOA. It offers scenarios such as supply chain, stocking decisions, traffic management etc and lets you play with the products for about 30 days. You can save your work and export it when you want to use it in real world.

So, how do you see CIOs prioritizing SOA at present?

Carter: According to a recent global study of Gartner, the number one priority for CEOs today is process improvement. CIOs on the other hand had SOA as number two on their priority list. Security happens to be the number one, as always. In fact, recently I attended a conference on SOA at Tokyo, and there we saw the attendance at the SOA conference doubling this year. And, among the attendees, there were four times more number of CIOs than last year in Tokyo. The Gartner Conference on BPM at London, held recently, was the only conference that had increased attendance this year. This easily shows a substantial increase in interest for SOA.