Services platform suppliers are delivering the components for enterprise architecture, and IT chiefs need to plan accordingly, says Mark Blowers.
Enterprise architecture could be the next big wave the IT industry will have to ride, driven in part by the need for compliance and a flexible, responsive IT environment. The IT market will be fundamentally altered: suppliers will have to become service-focused rather than technology-focused.
Adopting enterprise architecture will help to realign IT developments with business aims. However, to be effective, there must be more than high-level models - at the heart of this approach is a services platform.
The combination of standards -based integration, flexible business processes, unified information, composite applications and real-time metrics is an extremely strong proposition, enabling an approach to linking business processes to databases, legacy systems, line-of-business applications and external services.
Even though some software suppliers have not yet publicly stated their intention to evolve to common services platforms, the transformation of their products has begun.
Services platform suppliers are beginning to deliver the components for enterprise architecture. This will redraw the battle lines between suppliers. Platform suppliers will offer generic services; independent software suppliers will supply generic and application-specific services; and system integrators will supply services orchestration.
There will be a tussle between pure-play platform suppliers and application software suppliers for the lion's share of the market. Oracle and SAP will be looking to capitalise on their installed customer bases and have already defined a vision for a services-based platform and applications, whereas BEA, IBM, Microsoft and Sun Microsystems are heavily promoting and developing non-specific platforms.
But suppliers are keeping the impact these changes will have on existing systems to themselves. Despite the availability of web services and other integration technologies, the re-engineering of current applications and the adoption of an enterprise architecture is likely to take years. As suppliers make-over their products they will become reluctant to support previous versions.
IT directors must audit their current systems so they have an up-to-date understanding of what they have. Despite the short-termism forced upon them because of recent belt-tightening they must plan for migration over the next five years, even though their suppliers may not have explicitly stated their intentions.
IT management and the company boards must start considering and deploying an enterprise architecture based around a balanced business process and an informed view of operations. IT directors will need to quickly redefine their objectives and develop a road map for evolving to a services perspective.
The challenge will be to transform monolithic applications into components and services before software suppliers stop supporting systems that do not fully embrace enterprise architecture.
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Mark Blowers is senior research analyst at Butler Group