IBM certainly seems to see SOA as a key initiative, if its annual SOA show is anything to go by. The IBM Impact 2008 even in Las Vegas attracted more than 6000 attendees, and they can't all have gone just for the weather!
But the most salient aspect of the event as far as I was concerned was the 'event' support - not the army of people ensuring the party ran smoothly, of course, but the addition of the WebSphere Business Events product.
Event handling has always been possible with WebSphere, but it was messy. Triggers could be set on different queues, and conditions could be detected in various ways, but the whole thing was pretty technical and complex.
However, IBM's new product, based around its acquisition of AptSoft technology, delivers exactly what business users are looking for; the ability to write business rules in their own language that can control operations.
One of the key characteristics of SOA is that it breaks monolithic application stacks into individual services, each executing a discrete piece of business functionality such as 'Get Customer Details' or 'Book Delivery Date'.
In addition, information flowing in and out of these services is cleanly architected in a standards-based fashion, and is therefore easily accessible.
But this opens up a magnificent opportunity to deliver business control over operations through the use of business rules that implement corporate policy by changing execution and flow.
For example, if a bank wants to offer students the opportunity to make payments from their accounts with no charge, a business rule could be written that says 'If account holder is a student, then skip the charge calculation step'.
This is a simple example, but with the addition of a correlation capability IBM has ensured that much more complex rules can be put in place.
Consider the type of rules needed to mitigate the risk of fraud, for instance, where multiple conditions from a range of different systems would need to be assessed to detect suspicious activity patterns.
The key is that these things can be achieved with the use of business rules that the business analyst can understand.
This makes change quicker, and reduces the risk of misunderstandings between the analyst and IT technical staff.
With the addition of WebSphere Business Events support, IBM SOA has finally grown up. I guess the next step could now be a comprehensive BAM solution......we can but hope