Seeking open source expertise for its service-oriented architecture product strategy, Iona Technologies Inc. announced today that it has purchased LogicBlaze Inc., which is playing a leading role in open source community projects.
No financial terms were disclosed for the cash deal completed this past Friday, which immediately brings LogicBlaze co-founders Hiram Chirino, Rob Davies and James Strachan, as well as additional LogicBlaze technologists, into Iona's open source business, said Peter Zotto, Iona's CEO. Unlike many software acquisitions, this one was clearly about gaining human resources rather than products. Zotto said Iona had been seeking for the past year to buy a company with strong open source community connections.
"One of the drivers was to acquire very proven and well-respected open source expertise, not only the three co-founders, but other members of the company," Zotto said. "These folks have leadership capabilities in the open source community. That's not something we had a lot of."
Chirino, Davies, Strachan and their LogicBlaze colleagues will work on behalf of Celtix family of open source SOA infrastructure products, which Iona is developing and marketing in parallel with its commercial Artix SOA infrastructure product line.
Ron Schmelzer, senior analyst with ZapThink LLC., said this acquisition has value for the open source expertise, but he is not convinced the marketing mix of open source and traditional software products will work.
On the positive side, the analyst said the deal increases Iona's "momentum in the open source arena and their Celtix offering, and second it allows them to compete for mindshare in a market that is consolidating at an ever-increasing pace."
But Schmelzer said he has not seen the mix of open source and traditional products work in the market and is not sure it will work.
Of this acquisition, he said, "It still begs the question about how IONA will separate its commercial Artix offerings from its open source offerings, and they will have a challenge in the marketplace with their positioning. Do they want to be seen as open source SOA or commercial? If they want to be seen as both, this is quite challenging, and we have not seen an infrastructure company successfully pull off the combination. The company needs to come out with an aggressive positioning on how it plans to accomplish both a successful open source as well as commercial offering."
However, Zotto said Iona's strategy is based on its experience with its own customers dating back to the pre-Web services days when CORBA was the key to integration. He noted that Iona's traditional customers date back to its CORBA technology, which was sold for four vertical markets: telecom, financial services, manufacturing and the federal government. Early adopters of new trends in IT are also in those four verticals, he said.
Zotto said Iona believes the components of the SOA infrastructure being built in these verticals are going to come from both traditional software and the open source community. He asserts the important thing a vendor like Iona brings to the table is assurance that the traditional software and the open source products will interoperate in an SOA infrastructure, he said.
"We built our distributed SOA infrastructure strategy as a composite approach where a customer will use components from Iona's traditional product offerings as well as from the open source community and they must be able to interoperate," Zotto said. "We see customers starting with Java-only ESBs, but ultimately wanting to add quality of service capabilities like security, registry/repository, data services in our Artix product suite and plug into both Artix and Celtrix product families. So we don't see this as an either/or, but as an approach in the way our customers look at it. Customers are going to end up buying a composite set of technologies. What they want is for those technologies to be certified and warranteed regardless of whether the development model was traditional software or open source."
Bradley F. Shimmin, principal analyst of application infrastructure for Current Analysis, noted that while the acquisition was about people and expertise, there was already a relationship between Iona and Logicblaze involving products as well.
"IONA ships LogicBlaze's ActiveMQ product with Artix and Celtix as a JSM transport, he said. "And Celtix utilizes the company's still gestating ServiceMix as an EJB container."
Shimmin predicted the Logicblaze co-founders, already involved in Apache ActiveMQ and Apache ServiceMix projects, to take a leadership role in open source on behalf of Iona.
"Look for IONA to take the lead from Chirino, Davies and Strachan over the next nine months in not just moving its existing open source software forward, but perhaps re-building that effort based upon the successful sales, marketing and support strategies employed by Logicblaze in bringing ActiveMQ and ServiceMix to market over the past 18 months," Shimmin said.