IBM acquires SOA vendor Webify Solutions

It's looking to integrate Webify tools and features into its WebSphere apps

IBM has bought services-oriented architecture (SOA) vendor Webify Solutions Inc. and plans to make it a part of IBM's Software Group and WebSphere middleware product family. The move is designed to give IBM customers new options to more easily integrate existing specialized applications using SOA.

In an announcement today, IBM said it acquired the Austin-based company because Webify's SOA products for the insurance and health care industries will help IBM expand into other markets.

The terms of the transaction were not disclosed. Before the acquisition, Webify was an IBM partner in providing SOA services.

SOA allows companies to reuse existing technologies, yielding greater efficiencies, cost savings and better productivity.

"Combining Webify and IBM, we feel, provides a lot of value to our customers," Robert LeBlanc, general manager of IBM's WebSphere software division, said in a conference call today with journalists. IBM will take key Webify technologies -- including its "fabric" architecture, which is designed to allow divergent applications to work together, and its regulatory compliance features -- and expand them into SOA offerings for a wider range of businesses, he said.

Webify provides hundreds of prebuilt industry-specific, standards-based accelerators, tools and frameworks to help users build their own SOA infrastructures. Those tools include modules designed to help health care companies comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and modules to help companies in the insurance industry meet specialized Association for Cooperative Operations Research and Development guidelines.

Manoj Saxena, chairman and CEO of Webify, will continue to manage Webify and will take on additional responsibilities for IBM's SOA strategy, according to the companies.

"What we see here is the creation of a very large market for SOA in the next three or four years," Saxena said. The merger will help Webify increase its reach to customers around the world, he said. "From a shared point of view, Webify and IBM have a very similar point of view."

All of Webify's 120 employees, including 70 in Austin and 50 in Mumbai, India, will now become employees of IBM, he said.

Amy Wohl, an analyst at Wohl Associates in Narberth, Pa., said the acquisition is no surprise because the two companies were already partners. What the deal does is give IBM a proven product line that it can quickly plug into its existing WebSphere family, she said.

"IBM will be able to go to those markets right away with Webify and be able to provide the piece parts" that customers can use to bring together their varied IT applications, she said. "The customers are saying they'd like to do this [SOA strategy], but they'd like to have some building blocks to start with instead of starting from scratch."

By offering the individual components to complete SOA development, IBM will allow customers to buy pieces as they are needed, saving money and minimizing hassles, Wohl said. "That's what Webify has been doing, and that's what IBM will be able to do," she said. "It will make IBM more competitive in the marketplace."

Sean Sweeney, an analyst at Cambridge, Mass.-based Forrester Research Inc., said the Webify acquisition gives IBM "a lot more capabilities," particularly in taking a wide range of SOA tools and turning them into smaller components.

"There's a lot of synergy in this," Sweeney said. "The governance [features] will be a key focus area and Webify brings their governance manager [tool], which will strengthen IBM's capabilities."

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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