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Oblix buys into Web services management

The maker of identity management software plans to acquire Web services management start-up Confluent Software, accelerating consolidation in the marketplace.

Software provider Oblix plans to acquire Confluent Software in an effort to break into the emerging market for Web services management software.

Confluent's software will serve as the centerpiece for Oblix's expansion into Web services, according to a company representative. Terms of the acquisition, which will be financed with Oblix stock, were not disclosed.

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Oblix sells identity management software, which allows businesses to manage employee names and passwords needed to log onto corporate networks or Web sites. Confluent's software provides similar policy enforcement functions but is tuned specifically to Web services protocols, a series of XML-based standards that help business applications share data.

The Confluent software will allow Oblix to expand its product line into new areas of security and network visibility, a company representative said. The Confluent software will let Oblix manage business processes across machine-to-machine transactions, rather than just transactions such as a person accessing a network or Web site, the representative said.

Confluent, started in 2001, is one of several companies founded on the idea of Web services management, with the goal of developing software designed to enforce security and other policies and to monitor performance of Web services applications. The market for Web services management, however, is ripe for consolidation as larger companies move into Web services and a glut of smaller companies vie for customers, according to analysts.

Entrenched management software companies have already begun picking up smaller Web services management outfits. Last year, Computer Associates International purchased Adjoin to complement its Unicenter management software. Similarly, Hewlett-Packard bought start-up Talking Blocks and is integrating that company's software with its own OpenView product.

While HP and Computer Associates offer a broad suite of functions, Oblix's software is more specific to identity management. The acquisition of Confluent by Oblix could indicate that interest in Web services management will increasingly come from a broad range of companies, beyond the traditional software management realm, according to Ron Schmelzer, an analyst at Web services research company ZapThink.

"If you asked me who I thought would buy Confluent, I would not have put Oblix on the list," said Schmelzer. "I think we'll start to see consolidation from different places (than traditional management providers)."

The Confluent software can help Oblix manage networking policies other than security and network access, Schmelzer noted. Confluent's software could act as an extension to Oblix's current software line with the ability to track whether a Web service application is available and whether it's performing adequately, he said.