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Thursday, September 1, 2005

Why BEA bought Plumtree

Plumtree's CEO John Kunze said one of the stupidest things last week about BEA's acquisition of his company, according to eWeek's report: "[He] said the two software stacks 'can now be used side by side to build composite apps. There is an enormous market opportunity to address service-oriented architecture solutions."

Of all the cackhanded ways to address SOA — and as Dave Linthicum says this week in his new Real World SOA blog on InfoWorld, there are plenty of those — implementing two separate portal stacks as a means of creating composite applications must take the biscuit.

Even implementing a single portal stack is pretty old hat, if Steve Gillmor's take last week on where Google Talk is leading hits anywhere near the mark:

"... portals are dead. Of course that doesn't mean that we won't spend billions and years extracting ourselves from their grip, or maybe we can just start now and let the rest of the world catch up if they can. Gmail and Skype and Rojo and Firefox are all elements of a services fabric, a grid that keeps the lights on and the communications up between one idea and the next. A portal is like calling the canvas on which a picture is painted the UI."

I can't imagine that even BEA is foolish enough to believe more than a handful of customers will pay to solve their application integration woes by implementing yet another application server stack. After you've been bitten fifty times over, you get more than shy: you develop a raging phobia. No, profiting from portal creep is not why BEA bought Plumtree.

Anyone could have predicted the acquisition had they read the runes of BEA's AquaLogic announcement back in May, Bloor Research analyst Peter Abrahams wrote yesterday:

"The Aqualogic announcement had a simple architecture picture that had a section labelled 'User Interaction', which obviously included BEA's own 'portal' product but also included the words 'multi-channel' and 'collaboration' — neither of which BEA supported terribly well; whereas these are the sweet spots of the Plumtree offering."

Incidentally, he goes on to mention that the latest release of BEA's Integration Server has been extended through partnerships with business process specialist vendors ProActivity and Cyclone Commerce, continuing a trend to round out AquaLogic with third party software that we already noted here at the time of the original launch.

So why not partner with Plumtree to fill the collaborative portal hole in AquaLogic, rather than acquire? The most compelling reason was to make sure no one else got there first. Plumtree was the top-selling pureplay portal vendor, and it was only a matter of time before someone made a move. Smith Barney analyst Tom Berquist told IDG News Service (in this InfoWorld story) that BEA got a good price, calculated at $115 million after taking Plumtree's short-term holdings into account. Other observers have mentioned good cross-selling potential between the two companies' customer bases and the fact that Plumtree brings strong Microsoft skills, which BEA needs to build up.

The other attraction of Plumtree was that it has a successful track record of pitching and appealing to business analysts and users as well IT infrastructure people. Probably the most important strategic objective of the whole AquaLogic roadmap is to move application development and integration out of the IT arena and bring process automation within the grasp of a wider community of more business-oreinted users. Plumtree's valuable experience in that field may well have clinched the deal.

posted by Phil Wainewright 7:47 PM (GMT) | comments | link

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