Monday, October 24, 2005

IBM acquires Datapower - Will software be same

IBM has acquired Datapower, one of the non (web 2.0) companies in the overly hyped environment. And it seems it hasn't got any coverage in main media yet, but might get in coming days. Currently, everyone seems to be focused on Web 2.0, but it looks like this acquisition might have long term effects on software (S/W) applications.

Question is what exactly Datapower do and how IBM's acquisition is significant ?

Today, S/W applications built on Service Oriented Architecture (SOA). Legacy applications are enhanced to have SOA based infrastructure. What it means to lay man, is that there is a service available on some web site like (Google, Amazon) and you can send a request for that service, and it replies you back with the desired answer.

SOA based applications mainly has data sent over wire as XML, it can be SOAP (XML/Http) or XML/JMS. In broader sense, it's a message (containing XML data on some transport protocol) which is sent across the wire between two interacting (homogeneous, heterogeneous) components. Having said that, it doesn't mean you can't send binary data, but than who want to debug binary data, especially when the processing power is becoming cheap and cheap.
Worth noting here that SUN's JINI is another example of SOA, which has been open sourced recently.

Now, currently data processing happens at S/W application level. What it means, XML as data once received by interacting client or server has to be processed into binary and than to machine code and vice versa for the communication to take place. In between client and server, there are few network interacting S/W which runs on some H/W, like firewall (can be H/W embedded or S/W based), proxy server, routers and others. These S/W applications or H/W aren't designed to handle XML based data yet and this is exactly where DataPower comes into picture.
For example with Data power's XS40 XML Security Gateway, which is a 1U (1.75" thick) rack-mountable network device purpose built by them to secure XML and Web Services transactions. What else it can do.
Currently, this is unimaginable with the above H/W or S/W which doesn't know XML.
Now, IBM has acquired this company, which corresponds with their business strategy as they have been focusing on SOA and services around that for a while. This acquisition takes their vision further which is about AON (Application Oriented Network). Now other important aspect is, how about vendors like CISCO, as 90% network equipment used world wide is CISCO based. What are they doing in this domain. Than you guessed it right they are on it. Read more about that here.

Well keeping all this in mind, I think the nature of future S/W applications interaction with network will change forever and that's why this is so interesting.

Bill Burnham, a renowned venture capitalist (VC) and who invested in Datapower, lays out his thoughts on this.

He writes :

From an industry perspective, IBM’s announcement is significant for a few reasons:

1. It represents very a powerful endorsement of the long term promise of message aware networking.
2. It underscores the inevitable collision between enterprise software and enterprise networking vendors.
3. It marks what is likely the beginning of a very aggressive push by IBM to develop a fully featured SOA “stack”.

More on this acquisition and its effects can be read here.

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