IBM buys XML appliance maker

Big Blue scoops up DataPower, a company that makes appliances for accelerating XML network traffic.

Martin LaMonica Former Staff writer, CNET News
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer covering green tech and cutting-edge technologies. He joined CNET in 2002 to cover enterprise IT and Web development and was previously executive editor of IT publication InfoWorld.
Martin LaMonica
3 min read
IBM has acquired privately held DataPower, one of the first companies to develop specialized hardware for speeding up and securing XML network traffic.

Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

DataPower, based in Cambridge, Mass., is one of a handful of companies that sell appliances designed for handling XML-formatted data. Traffic that might otherwise overburden traditional hardware servers is offloaded to these appliances for better performance.

IBM said it intends to offer a line of service-oriented architecture (SOA) appliances based on the DataPower products. SOAs are modular systems that rely on standards--notably Web services and XML--to be more flexible and cost-effective.

The move to acquire 6-year-old DataPower follows Intel's purchase this year of Sarvega, another XML appliance vendor. In June, IBM partner Cisco stepped into the same market with the introduction of its Application-Oriented Networking (AON) product line.

IBM's Global Services consulting arm already had a partnership with DataPower to ship and install DataPower's appliances as part of customer engagements. IBM's purchase of the 70-employee company will allow IBM to fill out its products and services around SOAs, Robert LeBlanc, general manager of WebSphere at IBM Software Group, said in a statement.

"This is part of our push and continued acceleration of our investments in SOA" said LeBlanc.

DataPower's portfolio includes "Accelerator" appliances with specialized chips to make Web services applications run faster. It also sells a security gateway for XML-based applications and integration devices for sharing data between different systems. Typically, customers use DataPower's gear in conjunction with IBM's WebSphere, or other application servers, to improve application performance, LeBlanc said.

Analysts and DataPower competitors said that IBM's move, coupled with Cisco and Intel's investment in XML appliances, validates what is a relatively new product category.

"IBM is clearly showing that software alone won't solve the totality of SOA challenges," said Ron Schmelzer, an analyst at ZapThink. "This will turn up the heat on the other platform vendors such as BEA (Systems) and Oracle to consider how they too will broaden their coverage of SOA beyond simply software and professional services."

One of the reasons that specialized XML network appliances have emerged is because of the growing use of XML and XML-based Web services protocols. These standards allow for better interoperability between systems, but they also bring about performance problems from processing XML documents.

Andrew Nash, chief technology officer at Reactivity, said that remaining independent XML appliance makers could benefit from the acquisition.

"This has the potential for clearing space for quite a significant set of other customers who prefer not being tied up with Big Blue for their IT infrastructure," said Nash, who added that smaller companies could have an edge. "I don't think anyone's accused IBM of being nimble in any sense."

IBM Software group's acquisition of DataPower is one of several over the past few years, covering different areas of infrastructure software.

Both LeBlanc and DataPower founder and chief technology officer Eugene Kuznetsov said that IBM intends to offer different appliances based on DataPower's existing technology. Specifically, they said that IBM will explore specialized devices for business process automation, management and data access and create close ties to IBM's DB2 database and Tivoli management software.

"All things that make up an SOA environment are candidates to be integrated on top of an appliance," said LeBlanc.

Kuznestov said that as part of IBM, DataPower be able to create different hardware configurations of its devices, which are now sold as rack-mountable appliances. Versions of DataPower's products packaged as IBM blades are already planned, he said.