IBM Unveils New Integration Services for Legacy Apps

Integration of legacy apps is a key part of Big Blue’s On Demand initiative

At its DeveloperWorks Live! 2003 conference in New Orleans, representatives from IBM Corp. sought to underscore Big Blue’s commitment to existing applications and technologies, particularly in light of its On Demand computing initiative that was officially launched last October.

To that end, IBM introduced two new services offerings that address the integration and modernization of legacy applications.

At his keynote last week, IBM senior VP Steve Mills touted the strength of Big Blue’s software offerings—particularly of its WebSphere Application Server (which Mills claimed had more than 50,000 customers) and its DB2 Universal Database (with more than 400,000 customers). Mills also claimed that with more than 1,200 customers, IBM was the leading portal vendor in the business.

Mills used these examples to make his case that customers should invest in “durable” technologies, an argument IBM executives have been making in connection with Big Blue’s technologies for quite some time now. “You are looking for durability. You're looking for a level of certainty in what are clearly uncertain times."

Perhaps as part of an effort to demonstrate how seriously it takes its commitment to legacy platforms, IBM last week announced two new initiatives that are designed to help integrate and modernize IBM technologies for the On Demand e-business. Both are services components: the first a set of two new offerings from IBM Global Services (IGS), the second an expansion of Big Blue’s WebSphere Business Integration (WBI) Accelerators for Business Partners program. In connection with the second announcement, IBM also unveiled a new “Ready for IBM WebSphere Business Integration Software” branding effort.

IGS is slated to sponsor two new services offerings: Application Portfolio Management Services and Legacy Transformation Services. Both are designed to allow customers running older (legacy) applications, nominally in host environments, to Web-enable these applications and expose them to a number of new user constituencies.

Under the terms of the former offering, consultants from IGS will evaluate a customer’s applications and make recommendations about which ones should be replaced. The latter offering on the other hand, describes a set of services that can be used—either on a standalone basis or in conjunction with one another—to Web-enable legacy applications. IBM hasn’t yet provided information about the availability of either of these service offerings, however.

IBM first announced WBI Accelerators for Business Partners—an initiative to involve ISVs and systems integrators with WebSphere—at its PartnerWorld 2003 show in February. WBI describes an integration framework, based on WebSphere, which exploits an adapter-based architecture to facilitate integration among heterogeneous applications and data sources. The new expansion of the program that IBM unveiled last week is intended to encourage ISVs to build WBI adapters and other integration capabilities into their existing applications.

Sean Poulley, WBI director of business development, says the goal of the expanded WBI Accelerators for Business Partners program is to encourage ISVs to build “repeatable assets” that they can sell to customers in similar integration scenarios. “What we’re saying is that through our integration capability, we think that you can actually build repeatable assets for doing the integration. Just with [writing WBI] adapters, we think that you can make more money by leveraging the capabilities of our integration technology to build repeatable assets that you can then resell over and over again.”

Poulley is careful to stress that in spite of the size and prominence of its IGS unit, IBM remains committed to its business partners. “IBM is the second largest software business in the world, today, and the IBM software business only does about 15 percent of its business with IGS. This stuff doesn’t implement itself, so there is a terrific business opportunity around our integration technology.”

In spite of the emphasis on professional services, Poulley allows that organizations can also use their own internal IT staffs to develop integration scenarios based on WBI.

At the same time, he argues, IGS and third-party systems integrators have an important role to play in Big Blue’s On Demand computing strategy, largely because they enable customers to focus on core competencies and offload other tasks, such as application integration and modernization. “On Demand is about the integration of business processes from end-to-end, and what On Demand also talks about is how, as companies become more and more focused on their core competencies, they may choose not to do this [integration] themselves.”

About the Author

Stephen Swoyer is a Nashville, TN-based freelance journalist who writes about technology.