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SOA Software joins Microsoft BizTalk ESB effort

SOA Software announces a partnership with Microsoft to provide customized governance for the soon to be released BizTalk Server ESB Guidance toolkit.

SOA Software Inc. has customized its governance automation suite for Microsoft BizTalk Server, including optimizations for the Microsoft ESB Guidance toolkit, as part of a technology partnership announced Monday.

I think it's a marketing alliance deal and not really a technology deal as much.
David Lithicum
Consultant and AnalystZapThink LLC.

While SOA Software focused on its governance contribution to Microsoft's enterprise service bus (ESB), analysts specializing in service-oriented architecture (SOA) characterized it more as a marketing alliance than a technology alliance. Microsoft has a similar partnership with AmberPoint Inc., which the analysts say was helpful to that pure play governance vendor's marketing efforts.

Stressing the technology integration, Frank Martinez, SOA Software executive vice president of product strategy, said his company has been working for months with Microsoft as the ESB guidance for BizTalk has been developed.

"We have developed a management point for Microsoft BizTalk Server that provides native service management operations governance capabilities," he said. The SOA product includes performance monitoring, SLA enforcement, policy enforcement and auto-discovery capabilities for the BizTalk ESB.

The ESB Guidance toolkit documents supported patterns and practices for using BizTalk Server as an ESB. Scheduled to for final GA release in about 30 days, the guidance product also includes add-on software to the BizTalk server that provides ESB functionality.

"We've been working with Microsoft to provide a set of governance automation capabilities for that solution," Martinez said. "We'll be able to support operations governance as well as lifecycle governance for the joint solution."

Marty Wasznicky, Microsoft regional program manager, BizTalk Connected Systems Division, said developing relationships with SOA Software and AmberPoint was important to the ESB guidance product because Microsoft's goal is to provide governance technology that is "tightly integrated with our stack." The partnerships provide developers working with BizTalk as an ESB for B2B integration and SOA projects with a choice of governance products that "are not a black box," he said.

"You can leverage one or the other to create synergy and you don't have the operational management nightmare," the Microsoft manager said.

While Microsoft is relying on the partnerships with pure-play governance vendors now, Wasznicky did not rule out the possibility that the Redmond, Wash.-based software vendor will develop its own governance tools in the future.

Microsoft's ability to move from partner to competitor is something pure play vendors need to be aware of when entering these partnerships, said Jason Bloomberg, senior analyst at ZapThink LLC.

"It's always a good idea to identify yourself with Microsoft, but it's also walking a knife edge," he said. "If your product is too much what Microsoft wants, they've been known to just build their own and put you out of business. You want to complement them but you don't want to be such a strong partner that they put you out of business. I would say it's unlikely that Microsoft wants to be in SOA Software's business, so I would say it's a good move for SOA Software. It worked for AmberPoint."

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Analysts at ZapThink see these partnerships as having more immediate marketing value than long-term technological significance.

"I think it's a marketing alliance deal and not really a technology deal as much," said David Linthicum, a consultant and analyst who joined the ZapThink practice earlier this month.

Noting that BizTalk Server has a large market share in B2B integration, Ronald Schmelzer, senior analyst at ZapThink, said, "BizTalk is probably one of the most widely adopted middleware products in the market. SOA Software wanting to take advantage of that big market, I understand. I think it's more indicative of size of Microsoft's space than anything specific about SOA Software."

He said SOA Software, like the other pure play vendors, is still struggling to gain market traction in SOA governance. "I still see them struggling for market share in a market dominated by the large platform vendors," he said.

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