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Vendors vie to reign in services

by Keith Rodgers
February 23rd, 2005

For an immature market in which there are fewer than 80 customers worldwide in production with sizeable projects, the SOA management space certainly generates a lot of heat.

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The emerging SOA management market is a battleground between best-of-breed specialists and established enterprise-wide infrastructure vendors:
  • The market is immature, with few significant projects already live
  • Best-of-breed SOA specialists face increased competition
  • Established vendors from other sectors plan to move into the market
  • Many have not yet finalized their product offerings
  • The pureplay specialists have proven customer reference sites

Glossary terms: services management, SOA, systems management, lookup tool

Thanks in part to the growing involvement of systems management giants such as CA, HP and IBM, combined with infrastructure suppliers such as BEA and Microsoft, the sector is generating far more interest than its size merits — and for good reason. As organizations unleash more and more web services internally, so they run into a need for systems to measure, manage, secure and maintain them.

The big issue facing users today is working out which of the different approaches to SOA management will best meet their needs — in both the short-term and long-term. One of the ironies of the SOA management sector is that while service-oriented architectures are designed to provide nimble, agile development and operational environments, laying the foundations for the fundamental management framework involves taking decisions that will stick with organizations for years to come. In some cases, that's part of the marketing message — for example, HP may only be putting its first wave of management products on general availability in 2005, but if you buy into its Adaptive Enterprise vision today, you've probably got a roadmap there that will see you through retirement. So getting the choice right — or wrong — could have big repercussions.

From the summer of 2003, the sector began to divide broadly into two camps: 'best-of-breed' specialists who focus exclusively on the web services or service-oriented architecture environment, such as Actional and Amberpoint; and the systems management giants like HP, CA and IBM, who see SOA management as a component of a broader IT and business management picture.

The divisions in the sector evolved further through 2004 as SOA management increasingly began to be seen in the context of other, interconnected components — including identity and access management, and perimeter security. Today, vendors are coming into the space from multiple perspectives — best-of-breed, integrated systems management, enterprise integration and application infrastructure. Many are still fleshing out their product sets — indeed some have yet to launch — and 2005 will be a year where many promises are kept or broken. For users who are beginning to address this market, that makes the selection process more than a little complex.

Battling best-of-breed
Anyone with more than a passing interest in any layer of the infrastructure and applications stack will know that the ‘best-of-breed' versus ‘enterprise-wide' argument repeatedly rears its head during the evolution of a software sector. In general, the early stages tend to be heavily shaped by best-of-breed specialists, who battle it out among themselves to prove both their product and the viability of the market. As evidence of market demand emerges within their own customer bases, the industry giants enter the fray, building, partnering and often buying in the technology they need. Faced with growing competition, the specialists are either acquired, fall by the wayside, or in a minority of cases, emerge as robust niche competitors with a clearly-defined specialty.

This scenario is already playing out in the SOA management arena — but from several different starting points (as discussed in more detail in Loosely Coupled's SOA Management 2005 Report).

While it may be true that much SOA management functionality will gradually be absorbed into other parts of the infrastructure stack over the next few years, the emphasis in an emerging market is usually on what meets today's need and whether there's a credible path forward — and the leading specialists have a strong story here. While their total customer base may still be relatively small, it includes a growing number of proven customer references, often among blue chip companies. By contrast, the larger vendors are only just starting to get production sites visible. Until they can provide a comprehensive list of showcase customer reference sites with matching depth and breadth of capability, the top pureplays will still be very much in the game.

This is an abridged extract from Loosely Coupled's 40-page SOA Management 2005 Report, which is now available to purchase and download online. The report provides in-depth, independent evaluations of 14 web services management vendors, five early-adopter case studies, and a detailed overview of the market, from which this extract is taken.

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