The convergence of the BPM and SOA markets continues to make news this year and the pace of consolidation has increased in recent months. In March, BEA Systems acquired Fuego and added BPM to their SOA platform, positioning BEA as a strong, independent consolidated BPM/SOA platform. BEA has moved away from the ESB term and instead is aiming for the BPM space. In July (2006), HP acquired Mercury Interactive to expand its portfolio of management software. The real news in the SOA market was the incidental acquisition of Systinet's repository, which Mercury acquired in January. This move must have made competitors BEA and Oracle uneasy since they have embedded the repository in their Aqualogic and Fusion platforms.
In August, WebMethods acquired Celebra, adding semantic metadata management to its integration platform. BEA acquired Flashline, adding a design time repository to their platform to begin replacing the Systinet registry. IBM acquired Webify to add industry specific (insurance, healthcare, finance) capabilities to their SOA suite. And, in September, not satisfied, IBM and WebMethods scooped up more companies. IBM acquired FileNet to add content management to their ever-growing suite of products. This allows them to expand beyond BPM into the enterprise content management market. WebMethods acquired Infravio to add registry and governance capabilities to their platform hoping to build on their strength in business integration to provide a more general SOA platform.
So what's happening? The BPM space continues to expand, adding SOA platform capabilities, content management and other capabilities. The SOA space is expanding, filling out platforms, and pushing up into the BPM space. BPM and SOA will overlap more with each new acquisition and product release.
Overall, I think this consolidation is good for customers who can get a richer set of features and for the industry, which was overcrowded with product offerings. But don't expect seamlessly integrated products any time soon. I expect to see three phases of product releases:
1. Rebranding - First, the acquired product is made to look like other products from the new company. names, graphics, etc., are changed. This usually takes only a few months.
2. Initial integration - Next, a new release of the acquired product comes out as part of the overall product suite. Much of the look and feel is updated to be consistent with other products in the suite. However, some parts usually don't make the first pass and will still have the old UI or inconsistent features. Some new features will be added to make integration with the rest of the platform more complete, and installation and packaging will be integrated.
3. Complete integration - Finally, the products will be completely integrated. User interaction will be consistent across the products. Value-added features will make all products support each other. Common configuration and common utilities will be added. This level of integration can take 12 to 18 months.
If you're in the market for BPM or SOA, now is a good time to evaluate the different vendors. But you'll have to be patient with the next version of the product suite, which largely will be a collection of products that aren't fully integrated. Evaluate them against your particular requirements, and give yourself added protection by looking for products that adhere to standards in case future consolidation doesn't go your way.
Mike Rosen is an independent consultant providing advice and assistance on the design and implementation of SOA, business, application and enterprise architecture. Mr. Rosen is also Co-chair of the BrainStorm SOA Conference Series and Editorial Director of SOA Institute. He has years of experience in the architecture and design of applications for global corporations and 20+ years of product development experience for distributed technologies.
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