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SOA management players partner up

Sonic's newly acquired Actional 6.0 adds business process visibility and security features, while SOA Software becomes "registry independent" and partners with Forum Systems.

Got a dance card? You'll need it to keep up with the ongoing partnering and consolidation in the SOA management and governance area space as vendors scramble to broaden their offerings, both in terms of capability and interoperability.

 SOA is about heterogeneity. ... You can't put blinders on and assume everyone will build on one platform.
Dan Foody
Chief Technology OfficerSonic Software

This week Sonic Software Corp. is announcing Version 6.0 of the recently acquired Actional SOA management platform, and SOA Software Inc. is announcing its partnership with XML security vendor Forum Systems Inc., as well as declaring its products are now "registry independent."

"The market is maturing pretty significantly and vendors are trying to capitalize on this by bringing together a complete solution," said Ron Schmelzer, senior analyst at ZapThink LLC in Waltham, Mass. "SOA is architecture. You need a lot of different things. Going to 12 different vendors to get those things is increasingly looking tenuous. The market is pushing toward consolidation and deeper partnerships."

Even though Actional is now part of Sonic Software, which is owned by Progress Software, the Actional and Sonic products will stay separate.

"We're continuing to partner other with vendors. We're not trying to do it alone," said Dan Foody, formerly CTO at Actional who was appointed CTO for Sonic Software, Bedford, Mass.

"That said, we will cross-pollinate [with Sonic]," Foody added. "While there is some level of functional overlap, the target audience and what people are looking at when they choose an ESB or SOA management system are different. There are customers that use both, but we're not mandating it. SOA is about heterogeneity. [Parent company] Progress [Software Corp.] and Sonic recognize that. You can't put blinders on and assume everyone will build on one platform."

But there are some clear advantages to being part of a larger company, he acknowledged. For one, it gives Actional a much larger footprint, with the potential to expand both the the reach and the capabilities of its products. "There are a lot of interesting opportunities in the Progress treasure trove," he said.

"If I were one of Sonic's competitors and I didn't have a set of capabilities comparable to Actional, I think I'd be calling someone to see if I could do a deal," said Mike Gilpin, a vice president at Forrester Research Inc.

"The issue is," Gilpin continued, "customers want some level of pluggability and replaceability, and the boundary between elements is increasingly defined by industry standards to enable replaceability, which is good for customers. Vendors want to offer more and more of a solution, but they don't want to preclude doing a deal with someone else."

For Sonic, Actional Version 6 extends its management capability to what the company is calling Business Process Visibility (BPV), which allows business and IT users to gain a consistent view of business processes and the underlying infrastructure supporting those processes and provides the ability to take action on those processes, Foody said. Version 6 also features automated runtime governance and new "trust zones" security, which prevents unauthorized, noncompliant usage of services.

While Actional's play is now as part of a larger company, competitor SOA Software has been bulking up, most recently with a mainframe Web services product acquired from Merrill Lynch. "SOA Software is building a suite," Schmelzer said. "They've moving well beyond management." And making itself "registry independent" even though the company has its own registry product is smart, he said, "because the market hasn't decided its buying behavior yet."

"What we're doing is separating the registry from our products," said Ian Goldsmith, vice president of product marketing at SOA Software. "You can use any of our products with any other registry. Our take on registry is that UDDI is the LDAP of SOA. As LDAP became commoditized and ubiquitous, the same thing is happening with registry now."

Goldsmith said this move is "more of a reaction to the big guys promising to ship a registry with their platforms. We could see the writing on the wall."

And with the announced partnership with Forum Systems, customers can now use the SOA Software Service Manager product to control and manage Forum Systems' policy enforcement products, Forum XWall Web Services Firewall and Forum Sentry SOA Gateway.

For more information

Mercury to buy SOA registry vendor Systinet

IBM launches WSDM tools for SOA management

"We're using WS-Policy and WSDM to control policies inside the firewall and monitor services exposed at the firewall," Goldsmith said. "We will do the interoperability testing of products and ensure they work together." The significance for joint customers, he said, "is that they can now ensure consistent enforcement of policy throughout the entire infrastructure."

SOA Software's partnering in the XML firewall area won't be limited to just Forum, Goldsmith said, and he said to expect other announcements.

For Forum's part, this deeper relationship is a first with what Forum's vice president of marketing Walid Negm terms "a younger or startup company" but the company has existing relationships with larger SOA management players such as CA Unicenter, Oracle/Oblix, and HP SOA Manager.

"It's clear there's some pressure out there to play nice," Negm said. "We've done that from day one. Our strategy is to work with the larger vendors, but doesn't exclude working with an AmberPoint or an Actional."

Get ready to update those dance cards.

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