10 tools to manage SOA

Vendors step up to address the governance, quality and management technology triangle that ensures successful implementations

Service-oriented architecture promises many positives: resource reuse, application integration, business agility and infrastructure flexibility, among others. But never do SOA proponents claim ease of management as one of the technology's glories.

Many of today's management tools are not granular enough to work in an SOA environment, says Rich Colton, application-integration manager at engineering and construction company Washington Group International in Boise, Idaho. "That's what has been lagging. Everybody says we need to manage the infrastructure, but first I need to understand what kind of resources we're demanding out of that infrastructure," he says.

The complex nature of SOA requires more than monitoring in production networks. IT managers must apply the technology trifecta of governance, quality and management tools, industry watchers say. Read related story on SOA management

"Enterprise IT managers need to understand what part of SOA they are dealing with and what part they want to manage right now. It's not often a stand-alone product situation," says Randy Heffner, a Forrester Research analyst. "Sooner or later, if you are doing strategic SOA, you will need robust SOA management; and to get comparable functionality, you may have to get a set of products, rather than just one."

So, despite the promised benefits of a services-oriented approach, the complexity of SOA environments and applications demands management tools from inception to deployment to operations and beyond. In the face of such complexity, numerous vendors -- newcomers and veterans alike -- have taken on the challenge of SOA management. Some are tackling a specific stage in an SOA project's life cycle, while others are promising to address SOA in its entirety.

Here are 10 tools focused on addressing SOA's unique management challenges.

1. AmberPoint's SOA Management System

What does the product do? A policy-based run-time governance software suite, SOA Management System incorporates applications designed to address SOA performance in production. The suite includes a run-time repository, service network monitoring, SOA security, service-level monitoring and more.

Who's using the product? BT Group, H&R Block, Motorola and the U.S. Department of Defense, among others.

More on AmberPoint's SOA management play: "AmberPoint provides a broad integration solution for [SOA] management that can either operate as a stand-alone or integrate with other SOA and enterprise IT management infrastructures," Forrester's Heffner wrote in a 2006 report about SOA and Web services management.

Quick facts on AmberPoint: The company was founded in 2001, as Edgility Software, to address the complexities of Web services management. It adopted the new name in May 2002, after the term "amber point," which is used when an interesting DNA strand is discovered in the substance amber. The company says an amber point developed as it worked to address the challenges of managing distributed Web services.

Quick facts on AmberPoint: AmberPoint is headed by founder John Hubinger, who had been vice president of sales at Forte and a vice president in Sun's software products and platforms division. To date, the company has received US$41.4 million in venture funding.

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2. BMC Software's AppSight

What does the product do? AppSight performs automated problem resolution in SOA implementations to alleviate and eliminate application problems. Once in production, the software captures data and metrics that are used for problem resolution. The software reduces the manual effort required to recreate the problem and find a resolution.

Who's using the product? Clal Insurance, Community First Bankshares, Cox Communications and Mary Kay, among others.

More on BMC's SOA management play: When BMC, one of the top four management-software makers, acquired Identify Software in May 2006 for US$150 million, it brought the AppSight technology into its broader business-service management portfolio. Combined with BMC's performance-management technologies, AppSight addresses SOA- and Web services-based application performance from development to user desktop.

Quick facts on BMC: BMC began life in the late 1970s as a partnership that did contract programming in the Houston area. The company took its name from the initials of the three partners: Scott Boulett, John Moores and Dan Cloer.

BMC, now headed by CEO Robert Beauchamp, recently acquired RealOps, an IT process automation vendor, and ProactiveNet, an application performance-management vendor, to deliver more products that tie IT performance to business success. The company reported US$1.6 billion in revenue for fiscal 2007, which ended March 31.

3. CA's Wily SOA Solution

What does the product do? SOA Solution, courtesy of CA's 2006 $375 million acquisition of Wily Technology, monitors the performance and availability of Web services, application performance on client machines and other components in the SOA environment. The suite includes three applications that autodiscover SOA components, such as enterprise service buses, portals and Web services; map SOA transactions and dependencies among the various components in the environment, and alert staff to performance issues.

Who's using the product? Amdocs, Bear Stearns, FedEx, Geico, Home Depot, Intel and Pacific Gas & Electric.

More on CA's SOA management play: With the Wily technology, CA addresses application, Web services and now SOA component and performance management, analysts say. In particular, they like its ability to discover SOA elements and monitor performance at the transaction level.

"With its ability to discover and monitor individual transactions across multiple components, Wily SOA Solution is a prime example of a suite enterprise buyers can use to ensure reliable Web service performance," says Julie Craig, an analyst with Enterprise Management Associates.

Quick facts on CA: In the past decade, CA (founded in 1976) has weathered investigations of its accounting methods that led to a management exodus and in some cases, convictions. Now headed by former IBMer John Swainson, CA is working to repair its reputation for poor customer service and retooling its products to address enterprise IT management. CA reported US$3.9 billion in revenue for fiscal 2007, which ended March 31. CA, as well as BMC, could be an acquisition target of software companies like Oracle looking to do more in business management, according to industry speculation.

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4. HP's SOA Manager

What does the product do? Part of HP's Business Technology Optimization for SOA line of SOA software and services, SOA Manager manages loosely coupled application components and Web services. The software can define and maintain a dynamic model of services, including software assets and virtual servers; and manage application and Web services performance within that SOA model, the company says.

Who's using the product? McKesson and Thomson Financial.

More on HP's SOA management play: By acquiring Mercury Interactive (which had acquired SOA vendor Systinet), HP equipped itself with a complete SOA life-cycle management package. "HP covers all three bases: Systinet provides governance tools, Mercury is the quality component, and HP itself has a long and successful history with management tools," says Jason Bloomberg, managing partner at ZapThink.

Quick facts on HP: HP has expanded its technology empire with several recent acquisitions, including last month's US$1.6 billion purchase of Opsware and last year's US$4.5 billion deal for Mercury Interactive. The company, founded in 1939 and named after its founders, William Hewlett and David Packard, reported more than US$100 billion in revenue for fiscal 2007, which ended July 31. CEO Mark Hurd has said he's on a mission to build the company's software division -- less than 2 percent of the total 2006 revenue -- into the business that defines HP going forward.

5. IBM's Tivoli Composite Application Manager (ITCAM) for SOA

What does the product do? It monitors, manages and controls the Web-services layer of IT architectures, and identifies the source of bottlenecks or failures.

Who's using the product? AAA Carolinas, ACI Global, St. Louis Area Regional Response System and Samsung Group, among others.

More on IBM's SOA management play: IBM provides multiple tools to address SOA management. Its consulting arm taps best practices in helping customers deploy and manage SOA environments.

"IBM's [SOA and Web-services management] solution, composed of 13 WebSphere and Tivoli products, is a strong performer. A firm that deployed all of these products would have a very deep solution for SOA management, but the sheer number of products would be daunting for many," writes Merv Adrian, a Forrester analyst, in a recent report. "Still, firms that are looking to provide individual, targeted elements of SOA management may be able to find what they need in a much smaller set of IBM's products."

Quick facts on IBM: Officially incorporated in 1911, IBM expanded its management software business in 1996, when it acquired innovative start-up Tivoli Systems. The purchase immediately strengthened Big Blue in distributed systems management and application management. With US$91.4 billion in revenue for 2006 (and close to US$50 billion reported so far this year), IBM is trailing behind top competitor HP in revenue, but its software business -- ranked second in size behind Microsoft -- represented 20 percent of its total revenue in 2006. CEO Sam Palmisano has said the company plans to bring that number up to 50 percent.

6. iTKO's LISA Enterprise SOA Testing platform

What does the product do? Aimed at Web developers, the software performs unit, regression, functional and load testing, as well as postdeployment monitoring tasks. It is a no-code solution, the company says.

Who's using the product? American Airlines, EOS International, Lockheed Martin, Pfizer and Wyndham International, among others.

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More on iTKO's SOA management play: iTKO is uniquely addressing quality testing, industry watchers say. "iTKO has a very interesting perspective on SOA quality that goes beyond testing," ZapThink's Bloomberg says.

One year ago, the company made available free for download LISA WS-Testing, no-code Web-services test authoring and execution software. At last count, the software had been downloaded by more than 5,000 users and potential customers.

Quick facts on iTKO: "The company name used to mean interactive TKO (technical knockout), but we dropped those terms," says John Michelsen, chief scientist. "And LISA was actually a code name for our technology that branding professionals said we should keep. LISA is not really an acronym now; it's known on its own, but it stands for 'live interaction for services architectures.'" CEO Shridharr Mittal, previously a vice president at i2 Technologies, a supply-chain management-software company, has garnered US$14 million in funding for iTKO, which was founded in 1999.

7. Mindreef's SOAPscope Server

What does the product do? This flagship software provides an integrated set of tools at the XML software layer for automated Web-services governance, testing diagnostics and support. SOAPscope enables task-oriented collaboration regardless of role, skill set or development environment -- which makes it possible to find quickly and address any performance problems that arise, the company says.

Who's using the product? Charles Schwab, Fidelity and Visa, among others.

More on Mindreef's SOA management play: Mindreef competes most directly with iTKO, as both address the SOA quality realm. Quality testing during and after the design phase will help IT executives guarantee SOA projects succeed and ease the management of SOA applications in production environments, industry watchers say.

"Users are telling us they really did not pay attention to SOA design-time governance at the planning stage, but as soon as they tried to ramp up production, the need was bull's-eye obvious," said Peter Kastner, an Aberdeen Group analyst, in a recent report. "Continuous testing and a ruthless focus on quality are attributes of the best-performing SOA implementations."

Quick facts on Mindreef: Since its start, in 2001, the company has established partnerships with such industry heavyweights as BEA Systems, HP, IBM, Intel, Microsoft and Oracle. In March 2003 the company received US$4 million from Kodiak Venture Partners and company co-founders Jim Moskun and Frank Grossman. CEO Lars Borgwing has served as CEO and board member of several companies, including XOsoft (acquired by CA), during the last 20 years.

The company name is meant to convey the notion of intelligent, organic growth in SOA, says Grossman, co-founder and CTO.

8. OpTier's CoreFirst

What does the product do? The software manages transaction workloads across heterogeneous infrastructure tiers, such as Web and application servers, legacy systems and databases. In an SOA environment, the software monitors the performance of services, components and transactions.

Who's using the product? Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota and TrueCredit. More on OpTier's SOA management play: Customers say the OpTier technology optimizes SOA applications in the short term and helps plan for capacity based on data collected by the CoreFirst software -- which ultimately helps their business.

"Loosely coupled applications are great when it comes to reuse, but SOA creates a different set of challenges from a management perspective. It becomes exponentially more difficult to isolate performance issues in that environment, especially in the database at the services tier," says Scott Metzger, CTO of TrueCredit in California. "If you get the right monitoring tools in place, you can use the data collected to see the definitive correlation between business performance and application performance. We've become data addicts."

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Quick facts on OpTier: Founded in 2002, OpTier recently got a stamp of approval from network giant Cisco, which this past summer invested an undisclosed amount in the company. The funds are in addition to the more than $40 million it's received in several rounds from venture-capital firms.

CEO Israel Mazin, formerly CEO of Memco Software, says OpTier is named for the problem its technology addresses. The software will automatically optimize performance across all tiers of the infrastructure based on predefined business priorities, he says.

9. Progress Software's Actional for SOA Operations

What does the product do? One of three products the company offers for SOA management, Actional for SOA Operations uses agent technology that watches messages entering and exiting XML appliances and application servers to build a map of what happens in an SOA infrastructure. The software helps IT staff dealing with the base-level requirements around managing SOA, including performance alerting, dependency analysis, problem detection and resolution.

Who's using the product? Great American Insurance Group, Pfizer, and Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, among others.

More on Progress Software's SOA management play: Progress expanded its application performance-management portfolio with its January 2006 acquisition of Actional. The US$32 million purchase built out Progress' application performance-management products with Web-services management and run-time governance capabilities for SOA environments.

10. Tidal Software's Intersperse

What does the product do? Intersperse combines application management, business process tracing and run-time monitoring across multiple application servers to build a detailed final view of SOA applications and environments. The software, Tidal officials say, enables the proactive detection of problems, problem localization and root-cause analysis. In some cases it can help IT managers create self-healing capabilities in their SOA deployments.

Who's using the product? ING Direct, Lehman Brothers, Mizuho Corporate, NYSE and Omgeo, among others.

More on Tidal Software's SOA management play: Tidal's expertise in enterprise job-scheduling technology coupled with the Intersperse technology it acquired in August 2006 enabled the vendor's move into managing today's advanced application environments.

ZapThink's Bloomberg says: "Tidal now offers an SOA management product that enables IT organizations to maximize their automation, visibility and control in the operation of the components platforms and other infrastructure that support the services of an SOA implementation. Tidal brings transaction tracing to SOA management that can capture transaction flow inside components, between tiers and across application servers for end-to-end monitoring and management."

Quick facts on Tidal: Founded in 1978, the venture-backed company has been transforming its business over the past few years to address data center automation. CEO Flint Brenton, who previously served as part of NetIQ's executive management team, heads the company. Tidal has established technology partnerships with Microsoft, Oracle and SAP that bring the intelligence for management of those vendors' applications and environments into its software.

The updated company name (formerly named OCS, which stands for Operations Control System) came from Chairman Gary Leight, who says, "I was impressed with the power and the force of nature. Tides are subliminal and yet they are repeatable, predictable and unstoppable. They don't require effort from man."