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Progress nabs Actional for Web services tools

The $32 million deal is another sign of faster consolidation in the market for service-oriented architecture software.

Progress Software said Thursday it has acquired application infrastructure provider Actional and its Web services management tools for about $32 million.

The deal--a combination of Progress stock and cash--is expected to close as soon as it meets approval of both companies' boards.

Bedford, Mass.-based Progress said it intends to combine privately held Actional's management tools with products from Sonic Software, a company owned by Progress that sells integration software. Progress also expects to sell the Sonic and Actional product lines separately.

Sonic is one of the first software companies to build commercial integration software using standard protocols, a category called an enterprise service bus.

Actional, a venture-backed company based in Mountain View, Calif., has developed a product line that enforces IT policies while an application is running. For example, Actional's software can tell IT administrators if an individual program is meeting performance requirements and ensure that security policies are being followed.

Both Actional and Sonic have built their software around Web services protocols and typically sell to business customers that are adopting a service-oriented architecture.

A service-oriented architecture, or SOA, is a way to design computing systems so that individual programs can be reused and combined with other applications. For example, a service that provides access to customer data can be written once and used in several different applications.

"Now that most enterprises acknowledge the business agility and operational efficiency benefits of SOA, we see that there are many organizations with clear needs for Web services management," Greg O'Connor, president of Sonic, said in a statement.

The acquisition comes a little more than a week after Mercury Interactive bought Systinet, another start-up specializing in SOA infrastructure software.

Zapthink analyst Ron Schmelzer said the acquisitions portend more to come in the Web services management arena.

"Faced with the prospects of competing with much-larger vendors, we believe that many will choose acquisition instead of trying to broaden their own capabilities or find deeper pockets," Schmelzer said. "2006 will bear out to be the year of super-consolidation for the SOA markets."

He added that many smaller specialized SOA software companies will find it increasingly difficult to compete with larger infrastructure providers, such as IBM, Microsoft and Oracle.