Oblix Makes Service-Oriented Moves With Confluent Buyout

Enterprise identity management vendor Oblix has all but acquired Confluent Software, a maker of Web services management solutions. The move gives Oblix ownership of two of the key building blocks for service-oriented architectures.

Oblix Inc., maker of enterprise identity management and Web access control solutions, has all but acquired Confluent Software Inc., a maker of Web services management solutions, eWEEK has learned.

Cupertino, Calif.-based Oblix has agreed to acquire Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Confluent for an undisclosed sum, said sources close to the deal. And Ken Sims, vice president at Oblix, acknowledged the deal in an interview with eWEEK that included both Oblix and Confluent personnel.

"We have signed a binding agreement to acquire Confluent," Sims said. "Its a really important move for us."

According to analysts, the move gives Oblix ownership of two of the key building blocks for service-oriented architectures (SOA).

Rick Caccia, director of product marketing at Oblix, said that Oblix has excelled at supplying identity management solutions. But, he added, in the Web services world, as people move to service-oriented architectures, they need more.

"The natural first step is a portal and then an identification and access infrastructure," Caccia said. "Now, with Web services and service-oriented architectures, theres a need to manage users as well as to manage things system-to-system." The combined forces of Oblix and Confluent represent "a single platform with a decentralized view of applications and systems," he said.

Paola Lubet, vice president of Confluent, said the companys technology add rules to manage various roles and provides the ability to view what is happening with users and with applications.

Lubet said Oblix was not the only suitor attracted to Confluent. Many analysts predicted that startups in the Web services management space would be acquired by larger companies.

However, Lubet said Confluent chose to align with Oblix because "we have good synergy with their products and they have a good go-to-market approach ... Oblix is now the stronger Web services management provider. We also like the skills of their field operations."

Sims said the deal is an undisclosed stock transaction and is still yet to close, "but we do have a binding letter."

Asked his thoughts on such an acquisition, Jason Bloomberg, an analyst with ZapThink LLC, of Waltham, Mass., said: "Identity-and-access management and Web services management are both critical enabling technologies for building and running service-oriented architectures (SOAs), so there is definitely synergy between the two areas."

"Most companies in these two markets have been happy with partnerships to complement one anothers strengths. Nevertheless, if you think of an SOA as being based on policies, then identity management and Web Services management fit well together," Bloomberg observed.

Meanwhile, Ronald Schmelzer, also of ZapThink, said, "If you think about where portals are heading, security in the form of Single Sign-On was key to make sure that users could get a single user experience even while traversing multiple portlets and portals in a session. This is what brought companies like Oblix and Netegrity to the fore with their identity management products."

"However, as the portals manage increasingly more complex SOAs, they will have to control not just the security interfaces, but also the service interfaces themselves to make sure that the portals and composite applications get the functionality that they are expecting," Schmelzer said. "So, as identity management vendors extend the notion of security management beyond just tightly-coupled systems to loosely coupled SOAs, they will need to work increasingly more closely with service-oriented management vendors."

Tom Rhinelander, an analyst with Georgetown, Mass.-based The New Rowley Group Inc. said, "the most important thing is [that] the Web services management market is consolidating—but also gaining more coherence. Gone is the horde of broad, horizontally-focused management players."

According to Rhinelander, Actional Corp. and AmberPoint Inc.are the two major independents left. "And good for them, they both see themselves over time migrating away from providing infrastructure (agents, monitors, proxies) and moving towards managing service and business data and enforcing policies like SLAs [service level agreements]."

Meanwhile, Confluent recently updated its Web services management tools with new features that allow large businesses to better control and monitor their Web services.

Officials at the Sunnyvale, Calif., company said version 3.5 of the Confluent Web Services Management Platform allows businesses to centrally manage and track the performance and security of every Web service, including those deployed in different departments.

Prior versions of the software could only manage Web services at the department level, Confluent officials said.

A new feature in Version 3.5 enables IT staff to define and enforce company-wide security and quality-of-service polices for Web services, and also gives departments within a company the leeway to set specific policies for their own individual Web services.