IBM today broadened its already extensive service-oriented architecture portfolio by acquiring XML networking pioneer DataPower Technology Inc.
The move brings Big Blue's gargantuan influence into what recently had been a technological backwater, joining Intel Corp., which purchased Sarvega Inc. in August, and Cisco Systems Inc., which introduced its Application-Oriented Networking strategy in June. While SOA hardware appliances like the ones Cambridge, Mass.-based DataPower sells for XML acceleration, XML security and application integration may not have been a frontline issue for many IT shops early in the SOA adoption curve, IBM sees a big future for the technology.
"SOA is more than just software, it's everything that surrounds it," said Robert LeBlanc, IBM's general manager for its WebSphere product line. He added that Big Blue will investigate putting all types of SOA functionality, including management, into SOA hardware appliances.
While IBM did not tip what its full roadmap for the XML networking functionality will be, LeBlanc did say "the IBM blade version will be coming out here in the future." He also said the technology will make its way into different form factors, such as chips and cards, as it develops.
DataPower founder and chief technology officer Eugene Kuznetsov viewed the acquisition, which takes effect immediately, as a launching point for the hardware approach to service-oriented architecture.
"It's a platform to make this technology really pervasive in a way a small company like DataPower never could," he said.
DataPower and IBM had a good working history prior to the transaction, with DataPower interoperating with IBM's Autonomic Computing environment and getting certified as a partner in IBM Global Services' SOA Management practice . Both LeBlanc and Kuznetsov expressed confidence that Web services usage has grown to the point where customers will start to clamor for the hardware muscle DataPower has been developing since 1999.
"The people who need DataPower gear are serious about SOA; they need to scale it," he said.
Analysts were fairly effusive in their praise of the move.
"Most people don't realize the amount of XML that's out there," said Frank Dzubek, president of Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm Communication Network Architects Inc. "This stuff is going to be in every single box known to man. IBM's going to put it in every I/O interface. This is the critical underpinning of Web services."
Ron Schmelzer, senior analyst at Waltham, Mass.-based ZapThink LLC, believes "IBM is going to sell the hell out of this product," pointing out that "it's hard to create a distributed computing environment without addressing the network."
Schmelzer also thinks this move could light a fire under IBM competitors such as BEA Systems Inc., Oracle Corp. Sun Microsystems Inc. and Microsoft, pushing them toward gobbling up some of DataPower's chief competitors in the XML networking arena.
Dzubek insisted that edge-device hardware is an essential part of the SOA equation.
"This has to work hand-in-hand, hardware and software," he said. "Doing it with just software just creates additional overhead as you build out your architecture."
Reactivity Inc. chief technology officer Andrew Nash viewed the acquisition as an affirmation for the XML networking concept.
"IBM recognizes that customers require a new layer of infrastructure to address SOA requirements," he said. "For Reactivity, it means we will continue to win by delivering the most innovative, extensible and flexible technology that enables our customers to rapidly realize results from their SOA."
Dimitri Sirota, vice president of marketing and alliances for Layer 7 Technologies Inc. agreed: "This acquisition is a key indication that the SOA market is growing and maturing and it helps to legitimize the idea of security and performance gateways as key infrastructure for SOA."
Taf Anthias, vice president and general manager of the AON business unit at Cisco, sees the opportunity for the two tech giants to find common ground.
"In our relationship with IBM and SAP -- and you will see a lot more happening on the SAP side soon -- there is a realization by all of us that to really fulfill the promise of SOA you need people to come together," he said. "There's more to it than embracing Web services standards and declaring victory. It requires an intelligent network, intelligent middleware and a more intelligent approach to building applications using an SOA architecture. I don't see [the acquisition] as encroaching [on what we're doing with AON], but just another useful ingredient."News writer Colleen Frye contributed to this story.