IBM’s triple SOA thrust

IBM Corp. has made its third purchase in the SOA (service-oriented architecture) technology space, buying Webify Solutions Inc., the company announced Wednesday.

The acquisition should be of particular use to IBM as it targets SOA development and deployment in the health-care and insurance industries, the prime focus of Webify’s technologies. SOA is a way to create and manage IT systems through reusable software and services.

IBM didn’t disclose the deal’s financial terms.

“Webify really enhances IBM’s portfolio and gives us a richer portfolio of assets from which we can draw,” Robert LeBlanc, general manager of IBM’s WebSphere business unit, said during a Wednesday conference call to discuss the purchase.

IBM is seeing “amazing” demand for industry-specific SOA software and services, added Peggy Vaughan, global consulting services leader for IBM Global Services.

Last year, IBM made two SOA acquisitions, buying hardware appliance firm DataPower in October and portal technology and tools company Bowstreet in December. IBM and rival Hewlett-Packard Co. have both stressed the importance of SOA to their businesses and are constantly trying to gain an advantage over each other in terms of the technologies they can offer to customers.

Based in Austin, Texas, privately held Webify provides industry-specific software and services to help users more rapidly develop and deploy SOA applications. Its product portfolio includes hundreds of prebuilt, standards-based accelerators, tools and frameworks that can be used to resolve particular industry issues, for instance, ensuring that health-care SOA applications comply with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) federal standards for U.S. health-care information.

IBM is integrating Webify’s technology into its IBM Software Group under the WebSphere middleware brand. Webify will be a sub-brand of WebSphere, LeBlanc said. Over the next 30 to 60 days, IBM will decide whether or not to retain the Webify brand, he added. “It’s a very small company so its brand is not so widely known,” LeBlanc said.

IBM Global Services (IGS) will also use Webify software in its SOA work with customers with the offerings complementing development already under way at IGS Solution Center in India around SOA-based composite business services.

Webify Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Manoj Saxena will continue to lead Webify at IBM. He’ll take on an additional role, helping to define IBM’s SOA strategy. Saxena will report to IBM’s LeBlanc.

Webify’s 122-strong staff, 70 based in the U.S. and 52 in Mumbai, India, are joining IBM, Saxena said. IBM will likely further invest in the Mumbai facility, he added.

As the SOA market grows, IBM’s global presence will help Webify increase its software’s base of customers worldwide, Saxena said. The two companies have been working together for the past two and a half to three years and share a similar culture and take on the SOA market, Saxena said.

He expects that Webify products will continue to be offered by systems integrators other than IGS, notably IBM’s SOA services rivals Accenture Ltd. and BearingPoint Inc. Although Webify has worked to optimize its offerings for IBM’s WebSphere, the company has also demonstrated its software running on rival middleware from Oracle Corp. and BEA Systems Inc., a situation likely to continue, Saxena said.

While Webify has targeted the insurance and health-care industries for the last three years, the company in March began moves to also serve the banking and telecommunications markets. Being part of IBM should help Webify further extend its technologies to other markets like retail and the public sector, Saxena said.