Independent specialist vendors have filled important gaps in BEA's new AquaLogic announcements. Loosely Coupled has longargued that BEA would need to turn to SOA specialists if it was going to bring a credible SOA offering to market. We thought that implied that acquisitions were on the cards. But in the end BEA has opted not to pursue the acquisition route, and instead has partnered with Systinet and SOA Software to fill the gaps in its home-grown technology.
BEA has struck an OEM deal with Systinet to resell the smaller vendor's business registry product as the AquaLogic Service Registry. The arrangement with SOA Software is a sales and marketing deal that will bring the SOA specialist into projects that require more sophisticated security and policy management capabilities than AquaLogic currently offers.
The deal is especially good news for Systinet, which also featured as the preferred registry product in HP's SOA announcement earlier this week. Each new announcement consolidates its claims to be the de facto standard product for SOA registry, making it increasingly difficult for rivals such as Infravio and SOA Software to compete.
But SOA Software has done well, too. In the past few months, it has tied up sales agreements with IBM, Oracle and BEA, potentially exposing it to a broader range of customers than any of its direct competitors in the SOA infrastructure and management sphere, such as Blue Titan, Actional and AmberPoint. Once considered something of a dark horse, the company is now very clearly a front runner. [UPDATE added 06/23: What I didn't know at the time I initially wrote this posting was that AmberPoint, whose relationship with BEA goes back quite a while, also features on the list of AquaLogic launch partners. So also taking into account the fact that AmberPoint's various tie-ups with Microsoft give it a fair bit more exposure than SOA's Oracle relationship, it's more accurate to say that SOA, although it's made good progress, still has quite a bit of catching up to do there.]
BEA's need to call on specialist partners to fill gaps in its product can be looked at two ways, I think. First of all, there's little doubt that, when it first set out to develop an SOA offering, it underestimated the totality of what it would need to do. To its credit, it has done its homework and recognized its earlier miscalculation. It's fair to say also that very few people realized just how important registry and governance were going to be until this year, so it would have been easy to overlook these aspects when making product plans (see the May 2005 Loosely Coupled monthly digest for more about governance and SOA).
Secondly, BEA sees the real opportunity lying in tools and products for higher-level process assembly and management. While looking ahead to that tier of products, it's perhaps decided to skip more detailed development of the messaging and policy middleware layers.
I think BEA may also have found that the specialists are feeling pretty confident at the moment and not in the mood to discuss being acquired. So the acquisition route maybe simply wasn't an option for BEA at this stage of the game.
Looking back at the week's announcements from these two gorilla vendors, HP and BEA, I must confess that the Loosely Coupled team is feeling somewhat underwhelmed. Both announcements are short on substance and long on marketing. HP really did no more than announce the name of a product that it had already pretty much introduced. It still can't point to any substantial customer projects. BEA announced its much-trailed QuickSilver services bus, but the rest of its announcement was just a rebranding exercise, renaming two existing products of its own and slapping its branding on Systinet's registry. Most of the spend seems to have been on the AquaLogic branding and "Think Liquid" tagline. Well, it's good to see that something that was once vapor is now liquid, but is there anything solid there yet? Evidence that AquaLogic is actually going to deliver the promised benefits to customers is still pretty thin on the ground right now.