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BEA weighed web services buy

by Keith Rodgers
July 28th, 2004

BEA, Tibco and Netegrity each looked at acquiring a web services management vendor earlier this year — a sign of how rapidly services management is entering mainstream technology infrastructure.

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Established vendors across systems management, identity management, application infrastructure and EAI are eager to buy into web services management:
  • BEA, Tibco and Netegrity all looked at buying Confluent before it was sold to Oblix
  • It's the first confirmation that BEA has looked at buying SOA management expertise
  • EAI vendor Tibco has since struck a partnership deal for the former Confluent product
  • Netegrity's interest is in line with a convergence of web services and ID management
  • IBM may also consider buying up web services management capabilities

Glossary terms: SOA, services management, digital identity, EAI, orchestration, lookup tool

Reliable sources told Loosely Coupled that all three vendors were involved in discussions about a possible takeover of Confluent Software, the web services management developer, before it was acquired by identity management vendor Oblix in February. The disclosure brings the first tangible evidence that BEA has actively considered making acquisitions to plug product gaps in its new 'Liquid Computing' SOA strategy, announced in May — and is bound to fuel speculation about possible moves for other web services management specialists.

For its part, integration specialist Tibco has since confirmed its interest in the web services management space through a partnership agreement — ironically, by striking a deal with Oblix in late July to resell an updated version of the former Confluent product.

Combined with ongoing interest from IBM in the sector, the revelation of the three vendors' interest in Confluent suggests that the quickfire pace of acquisitions in the web services management arena is now being driven from several different technology strongholds — traditional IT systems management, identity management, application infrastructure and enterprise application integration (EAI).

Acquisition waves
The first wave of acquisitions kicked off only a year ago and involved the broad-based systems management vendors, with Computer Associates acting first to acquire Adjoin Solutions in a stealth transaction last summer (as later exclusively revealed by Loosely Coupled). Hewlett Packard subsequently purchased Talking Blocks, and in April this year NetIQ struck an investment, marketing and development deal with Infravio.

The second, more recent, wave sees the gradual merging of identity and access management with web services management. Oblix, for example, has taken the first steps to tie the two disciplines together in a rebranded version of the Confluent product, COREsv 4.0, which it released earlier this month. The new product provides integration with Oblix's COREid Access system, allowing organizations to reuse access policies within the web services management environment. Rick Caccia, director of product management, said the company will also look over time to standardize identity reporting between the two products by holding records in a single database, as well as unifying the two packages' policy-building tools, which are currently tightly coupled to the core logic of each individual product.

Netegrity, the access management and security vendor, clearly concurs with Oblix's stance. It confirmed to Loosely Coupled that it had eyed up Confluent before the Oblix takeover, although an acquisition would have been unlikely given that in the preceding month it had bought provisioning vendor Business Layers. Merritt Maxim, product marketing manager, stressed that acquisition is not a priority for Netegrity and said the company prefers to partner in the web services management space. Partners including Actional, AmberPoint and Infravio add broader web services operational management functionality to the Netegrity SiteMinder web access management product, while Digital Evolution integrates both with SiteMinder and with the TransactionMinder web services security product.

The combined approach has also been championed by the likes of CA, which plans to release a combined security and web services management product, and HP, which bought the SelectAccess identity management suite last year and acquired IT user-provisioning vendor TruLogica this year. Digital Evolution has even repositioned itself as an "identity-based" SOA management vendor in order to emphasize its identification with this approach. It links its own Policy Manager and SOA infrastructure to third party identity management systems, including both Netegrity and IBM's Tivoli Access Manager.

Meanwhile, signs of a third wave of consolidation are now emerging in the application infrastructure and EAI layers. Tibco declined to return calls for this story asking for comment on its initial interest in purchasing Confluent, but it recently forged links with Confluent's ultimate buyer. Last month it licensed Oblix COREsv as part of its Enterprise Application Integration (EAI) offering, allowing it to monitor and enforce policies over web services. The product will be resold as part of the Tibco BusinessWorks suite.

Plugging gaps
It now appears that BEA was casting around for web services management capability in the months prior to the announcement of its 'Liquid Computing' SOA strategy in May. So far, the only deliverable component of that strategy has been the latest version of its Weblogic application server, WebLogic Server Process Edition, designed for service orchestration and composite application development. Project QuickSilver, one of the most important components still under development, "converges the powerful capabilities of an enterprise service bus with web services management," according to a company statement. BEA was unavailable for comment when contacted for this story, but its ability to build QuickSilver's web services management capability in-house has been undermined by recent key departures from its development team, including former chief architect Adam Bosworth, who left to take up a new role at Google last week.

For its part, IBM has also confirmed that it is weighing up its options to fill a gap in its web services management capability, although as reported in this month's Loosely Coupled monthly digest, feedback from its customer base is split between demand for disparate capabilities in areas such as security, performance and versioning. After launching new middleware and SOA consulting services in April based around its WebSphere integration software suite, it has promised a further tranche of announcements this year, which may or may not include acquisitions. The company has never been shy of making strategic acquisitions, as its recent purchase of middleware vendor Candle demonstrates.

This jostling for position in the SOA space isn't merely disruptive for the specialist suppliers — it's also leading to familiar tensions as vendors weigh up the benefits of partnering versus acquiring. Even after its acquisition of Confluent, for example, Oblix still has partnership arrangements in place with web services management specialists such as AmberPoint and Actional — although it's fair to assume they're more likely to join forces in response to customer demand than act as strategic partners. Netegrity's ties with several web services management vendors would also have been tested if it had picked up Confluent.

The continuing momentum of acquisitions activity may disquiet customers too, as it sends an implicit message that the larger vendors' SOA and web services infrastructure offerings are not yet complete, while smaller specialists are liable to be merged into larger organizations without warning. However, if the outcome is a better supported product and a larger R&D budget, customers may feel that's not such a bad thing.

  • Should the threat of further takeovers in the web services arena influence your purchasing decisions? The September issue of Loosely Coupled monthly digest investigates what factors customers are taking into account as they prepare to invest. Subscribe now for special launch offers.

More on this topic


Top vendors buy into SOA management
CA and HP have beefed up their SOA management capabilities by acquiring technologies and skills ...

Beating a path from identity to services
Identity management vendor Oblix has caused a stir with an acquisition ...

BEA stakes future on SOA adoption
BEA hopes to persuade customers moving to SOA to standardize on its WebLogic platform ...


Vendor websites
BEA, IBM, Netegrity, Oblix, SOA Software (formerly Digital Evolution), Tibco Software

BEA Systems Unveils Liquid Computing Vision, Products and Services
Press release announcing BEA's 'Liquid Computing' SOA strategy.

COREsv web services management software
Confluent page of Oblix website.


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