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SOA and BPM convergence drives acquisitions

As enterprise architecture encompasses service-oriented architecture (SOA) and business process management (BPM) and modeling, vendors look for ways to expand the breadth of tool as seen in this week's acquisition of Proforma Corp. by Metastorm Inc.

As the link is forged between services-oriented architecture (SOA) and business process management (BPM) vendors are seeking ways to expand there tool offerings to reach from high level planning and modeling to application development.

These vendors are seeking to imbue their BPM products with the ability to enact runtime, closed-loop process optimization based upon a stream of events that are deciphered in context.
Bradley F. Shimmin
Principal Analyst of Application InfrastructureCurrent Analysis LLC.

The drive to provide more comprehensive tools was behind this week's acquisition of Proforma Corp., an enterprise architecture (EA) tool vendor, by Metastorm Inc., which is moving to expand beyond its BPM tool focus, the company and analysts say. It is also seen as the motivation for IBM's recent acquisition of Telelogic.

This is part of a larger industry trend, said Bradley F. Shimmin, principal analyst of application infrastructure at Current Analysis LLC., as vendors seek to ways to market products in the enterprise architecture space.

"It's interesting to watch SOA platform vendors like Progress, IBM, Oracle and others approach the notion of business process optimization from a very event-driven perspective," he said. "These vendors are seeking to imbue their BPM products with the ability to enact runtime, closed-loop process optimization based upon a stream of events that are deciphered in context, basically complex event processing (CEP) for SOA/BPM."

Meanwhile, Shimmin sees BPM vendors moving to strengthen their business intelligence (BI) offerings.

"BPM vendors seem to be coming at the problem from a very business intelligence (BI) perspective, focusing on the design-time side of the fence with greater support for things like live modeling," Shimmin said. "I suppose in that way, Metastorm's combined solution could make some headway in this broader market, but in the long term, to do so, the company will need to also invest in the run-time side of business process analysis and optimization."

Neil Ward-Dutton, research director at Macehiter Ward-Dutton, has also been watching this developing market and notes that the need to combine capabilities for enterprise modeling, business process modeling and analysis, and process execution/monitoring was a driver in IBM's recent acquisition of Telelogic. Telelogic, he points out had gained some of tools in the space from its earlier acquisition of Popkin Software. Not surprisingly this makes IBM a player "on paper" in this converging market, Ward-Dutton said.

"[IBM] has enterprise architecture modeling, a full BPM suite and also a whole heap of other modeling and portfolio management capabilities that are relevant. Many of the other BPM players address some of the same capabilities through partnerships with IDS Scheer," Ward-Dutton said.

Jason Bloomberg, senior analyst with ZapThink LLC., also views this week's acquisition as a move to strengthen the Metastorm presence in enterprise architecture, but is not sure how it will play in the SOA space.

"Metastorm has a strong focus in the BPM and BPA [business process automation] space, but they didn't really have broad coverage in the EA and BPA/EA overlap area, which explains their acquisition of Proforma," Bloomberg said. "This acquisition transitions them from being more of a runtime process management and modeling firm to more of process design and analysis firm, and potentially increases their applicability to emerging approaches such as SOA which demands greater understanding of business process and how it relates to composite services. However, neither company has had much of a presence in the SOA space, so it remains to be seen whether the combination will do any better."

Greg Carter, CTO of Metastorm said his company's broadening product offering does fit into the SOA picture.

"In the perspective of SOA one of the things this does is it lets us further map the business value of service implementations, of ESBs, of components to your infrastructure to the actual corporate and strategic goals those services help you achieve," Carter said.

He said the Metastorm tools will provide enterprise architects with the ability to understand one of the key components of SOA "the impact of change, whether that is change in a corporate strategy or goal, and see what processes and services are impacted by that change." The tools will also help architects and business planners track costs of services and relate those costs to the overall business strategy and goals.

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"So we think establishing that broader picture will help our customers get a much better understanding of not only their IT portfolio but also their broader process portfolio, their services portfolio, and do it in a very integrated fashion," Carter said.

Ward-Dutton, however, casts a skeptical eye on how the tools may work in the various areas that now fall under enterprise architecture.

"There are two trends at work here," he said. "One is that companies are spending more time and money on disciplines like enterprise architecture in order to try and make sense of their end-to-end IT landscapes and how they can be optimized to support business priorities. The other is that in the business process management (BPM) domain, companies are trying to open this discipline up to include more active dialogue between business users and the people designing software solutions. Metastorm is potentially able to surf both waves of demand with the acquisition of Proforma, but the truth is that they'll need to put their capabilities together in different ways to suit the needs of the two different trends. It's not enough to be able to say 'hey, look at the size of our kitbag! We've got everything you could ever want in here.'"

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