Breaching the Blood Brain Barrier

A month after Software AG unveiled its roadmap for converging webMethods products, it is releasing the first of the new or enhanced offerings. What piqued our interest was one aspect of the release, where Software AG is starting to seed webMethods BAM (Business Activity Monitoring) dashboards to other parts of the stack. In this case, they’re extending the webMethods Optimize BAM tool from BPM to the B2B piece.

So why does this matter? As its first name implied, BAM is about monitoring business processes. But if you think about it, it could just as well apply to the operational aspects of deploying SOA, from trending compliance with service level agreements to the nitty gritty, such as the speed at which the XML in SOAP messages is being parsed.

So far so good. What Software AG is doing is trying to use the same dashboarding engine that has been owned by the line-of-business folks, who want to monitor high level processes, to the software development folks, who are charged with exposing those processes as web services.

But when it comes down to the thorny issue of monitoring compliance with service level agreements (SLAs), Software AG’s moves are just a very modest first step. With a common dashboarding engine, you might be able to get software developers to improve the efficiency of a web service through programmatic modifications, but at the end of the day (and hopefully a lot earlier!), you have to run the services on physical IT infrastructure. And as we’ve noted in the past, when it comes to fixing service level issues, today’s processes, technologies, and organizational structures remain highly silo’ed. The software development folks own the SOA implementation, while IT operations own the data center.

It’s an issue that HP Software, which has undergone a reverse acquisition by Mercury (yes, HP bought it, but many ex-Mercury execs are now running it) is striving to bridge. And with Software AG’s latest moves to extend Optimize, it’s a goal that’s on their horizon as well.

The challenge however is that, as the IT operations folks embrace ITIL and the business service optimization or management tools (a.k.a., retooled offerings from systems management vendors), you may wind up with multiple islands of automation that each operate their own silo’ed dashboards claiming to show the truth about service levels — whether those service levels pertain to how fast IT resolves an incident, how fast the database runs, or how available is a specific web service.

Software AG says that it wants to eventually integrate metadata from its CentraSite SOA repository with the CMDBs (configuration management databases) of ITIL-oriented tools sometime in the future. We wonder how they, and their presumed ITIL vendor partner, will sell the idea to their respective constituencies, and more importantly, who’s ultimately going to claim accountability for ensuring that web services meet the SLAs.