Some of the more interesting marketing battles currently being fought in the IT industry are over the enterprise software market. In that space, business fundamentals rule the day and some things never change--if you control the API, you control the market. Essentially, vendors with the best technical strategy, commitment to the market, and ability to execute usually dominate. The others either fall by the wayside, are acquired, or settle for their technology to be resold by larger vendors.
Nevertheless, while meta-data and model-driven programming are the wave of the future, whether the implementation is a Spring Web Flow, a standard Web service, or an ESB, most organizations have limited tolerance for protracted analysis and system design lifecycle phases, which are required to configure the these systems properly. This work ethic needs to be seriously reconsidered.
Players In the SOA Software Market
Not since the client-server paradigm shift and early days of J2EE has a market materialized with so much potential. In this market, vendor strategies range from automating the lofty, C-level, SOA-governance process (CA's Clarity, for instance) to providing search capabilities that utilize the XQuery standard (such as with Mark Logic).
XQuery, a technology under development by the World Wide Web Consortium, is designed to query collections of XML data. This does not mean just XML files, but includes anything that appears as XML, including relational databases. XQuery has broad support from IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle, as well as application server vendors such as BEA and Software AG. These vendors have clearly indicated that SOA is a primary market focus.
That said, to brand yourself as an SOA vendor, it appears that all you really need to have is a track record for building service-based software. Generically speaking, a service can be an MQSeries Manager, EJB (Enterprise Java Bean), basic HTTP service, or robust asynchronous messaging environment. For example, Tibco a traditional middleware vendor strong in the financial services, is competing with the dominant players and moving into the business process automation segment of this market. Oddly enough, I know of one large pharmaceutical company that is using Tibco's Business Works as an "interim" SOA solution, before deciding on IBM or BEA. This organization clearly underestimates Tibco's ability to become a major SOA platform.