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12/20/2005
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IBM Acquires Portal Software Vendor Bowstreet

The move will help IBM expand its SOA offerings

IBM has acquired portal software vendor Bowstreet Inc. in a bid to further its service-oriented architecture strategy. The acquisition is the latest move among middleware suppliers to provide businesses with a way to quickly build and deploy "tactical" SOAs through the use of shared Web portals.

IBM completed the buyout of privately-held Bowstreet on Dec. 16, Mike Rhodin, IBM general manager of Workplace, portal, and collaboration software, said in a conference call Tuesday. The price was not disclosed. All 75 Bowstreet employees will join IBM, Rhodin said.

Bowstreet's development tools provide a simple way to build portals or "composite applications" that companies use to connect applications, databases, documents, and corporate information. That makes it easier to link new applications with legacy systems, for example, and share data and applications with customers, suppliers, and business partners.

"Portals are becoming a core piece of [IT] infrastructure for organizations around the world," Rhodin said. "It's a key element of our overall service-oriented architecture story."

While IT managers understand the potential value of SOAs, demonstrating their business value to top management has always been a challenge, says AMR Research analyst Jim Murphy. "What companies need from this stuff is quicker applicability to business problems," he says. Building portals using tools like Bowstreet's provides a tangible demonstration of what Web services can provide.

IBM and Bowstreet have been partners for several years. IBM resells Bowstreet's software integrated with IBM's WebSphere Portal that serves as a front-end for SOA applications. Bowstreet also works with IBM's Workplace software and Rational development tools.

AMR Research's Murphy says questions remain about just how the Bowstreet technology will be combined with IBM's products and how it will be sold. IBM will provide a more detailed plan for integrating the companies' product lines in the near future.

IBM and Bowstreet have worked on some 100 customer engagements together, Rhodin said, including Allmerica, Fidelity Information Services, Cardinal Health, and Dupont.

Earlier this month integration software vendor Tibco Software Inc. unveiled its PortalBuilder 5.0 for building Web portals that companies can use to quickly assemble and deploy tactical SOAs. In August BEA Systems Inc. acquired portal software developer Plumtree Software Inc. for $200 million. Microsoft is also a player in the portal market with its SharePoint Portal Server.

Oracle uses Bowstreet's technology in its Oracle Portlet Factory development toolset that it announced in September. Rhodin, noting that IBM and Oracle both compete and cooperate in many technology areas, said he did not expect IBM's acquisition of Bowstreet to alter the Oracle relationship.

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