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IBM: SOA appliances selling like 'gangbusters'

One year after IBM acquired DataPower and its XML appliances, the acceleration, integration and security hardware appears to be fitting in well with WebSphere software for SOA implementations.

Not all acquisitions in the computer industry work as well as the buyers and sellers hope, but IBM's purchase of DataPower's XML hardware accelerators, now re-branded as WebSphere DataPower SOA Appliances, seems to have justified last year's hype, scoring 40 new customer wins in the year's third fiscal quarter.

Basically, it's a hardware form-factor solving software issues.
Ron Schmelzer
Senior AnalystZapThink LLC

The staff for DataPower development, sales and marketing has doubled since the start up became part of IBM's global SOA initiative, said Eugene Kuznetsov, DataPower co-founder and formerly its CTO, and now director of SOA appliances at IBM. The result of having Big Blue's budget and worldwide sales and marketing behind it has been a major increase in sales, he said. And while he notes that DataPower's products were enjoying good sales when it was just a Cambridge, Mass.-based startup, this past year's success is beyond what a small niche vendor can ever hope for.

As the developer of the original DataPower technology, Kuznetsov might be expected to toot his own horn, but Ron Schmelzer, senior analyst with ZapThink LLC, says this success story isn't hype, the newly christened IBM products really are "selling like gangbusters."

"The DataPower set of appliances seem to be fitting very well into the overall WebSphere product line," the analyst said. "The products are addressing specific point problems around the manipulation of XML and other SOA-related artifacts in environments where simply throwing more iron or app servers around won't solve the problem. This is why DataPower is part of the WebSphere line and not in a hardware group. Basically, it's a hardware form-factor solving software issues. As such, the IBM folks are finding a lot of application for the products and selling it like gangbusters."

The success highlights the role appliances from all vendors are playing in SOA implementations.

"In general, many of the hardware vendors have the same general approach as DataPower, hardware appliances that are solving software problems, and as such, the space as a whole is maturing," Schmelzer said. "Many of the vendors in the market are seeing a maturation of their customers and as such purchases are less and less of the proof of concept type and more of the in production real-time system type."

While IBM's purchase of DataPower a year ago came in the early stages of the hot acquisition market that has characterized the SOA space in 2006, Schmelzer anticipates more SOA appliance maturity and perhaps a continuing buying spree through 2007.

"We can expect to see more maturation of this market," he said, "and possibly some more consolidation over the next 12 months or so."

While Kuznetsov wouldn't give away specifics, he said there will also be a major new product announcement for the WebSphere DataPower SOA Appliance family in 2007.

XACML support added

Kuznetsov can talk about the work that has been done since the acquisition on implementing emerging Web services standards, most notably Extensible Access Control Markup Language, (XACML) in the appliances.

"XACML support is something very significant," he said of the OASIS standard. It is a big step forward in policy enforcement, which had previously been handled by proprietary coding that was not easily integrated in SOA implementations, he said.

For more information
IBM rechristens DataPower SOA appliances

IBM gets XML muscle with DataPower acquisition

"XACML is really a way of expressing authorization policy and fine grained access control policy in a fine grained way," he explained. "That's very powerful and it's going to be coming out in a number of products across the IBM portfolio. Having it in our appliances, in combination with our Tivoli product, allows us to have this very fine grained policy that can be enforced in a number of places in the infrastructure, be it in the network appliances or in other parts of the infrastructure."

Kuznetsov said the standard is important even in the most basic transaction processing applications.

"Let's say you want to have a policy where no purchase orders over $50,000 can leave the network unless they've been digitally signed by the chief financial officer," he said. "You can see where that could be important in today's compliance-driven times. What a XACML policy allows you to do is essentially in an XML file say here is when this policy applies and the type of messages it applies to, and here's what the policy is for the type of access that's allowed, or the kind of messages that are allowed to flow in and out of the systems."

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