Flashline buy will boost BEA asset management

BEA Systems Inc. said on Wednesday that it was buying metadata repository vendor Flashline Inc. of Cleveland, Ohio, for an undisclosed sum. Flashline brings a set of capabilities that will allow BEA to bring assets together not just at the service interface, but also the policies critical to managing those assets.

The deal is the second acquisition involving a metadata repository maker this week, after webMethods acquisition of repository technology from Cerebra (http://www.infoworld.com/4431) on Monday, and follows Mercury Interactive’s acquisition of Systinet in January (http://www.infoworld.com/4336). BEA will add Flashline’s product to BEA’s AquaLogic product line as the BEA AquaLogic Enterprise Repository, allowing BEA customers to better manage IT assets and make it easier to manage SOA deployments across enterprise environments, according to BEA chief technology officer Rob Levy.

Metadata repositories allow companies to track and manage IT assets such as software applications and services that are running on their network, as well as policies that govern the use of those assets. Repositories are key elements of SOA implementations in enterprises because they allow companies to centrally manage and measure the performance of IT assets.

“Flashline brings a set of capabilities that will allow us to bring assets together not just at the service interface, but also the policies critical to managing those assets,” said Paul Patrick, chief architect of BEA’s AquaLogic product line.

Combined with BEA’s AquaLogic UDDI Service Registry, Flashline’s registry will allow BEA customers to manage the entire SOA lifecycle from initial planning through deployment and ongoing maintenance, he said.

Flashline will make SOAs using BEA products more resilient, as well, by exposing the interdependencies between SOA services, like versions, schemas and the platforms that services run on, said Charles Stack, Flashline’s CEO and founder.

“Managing SOAs devolves to managing the metadata that (SOAs) instantiates, and governing SOA is about governing metadata,” he said. “Managing the Interdependencies will be a key metric of SOA governance.”

The BEA news, following Mercury (now HP) and Webmethods is evidence that the days of stand-alone repository vendors are drawing to a close, said Jess Thompson, a research vice president at Gartner.

“Infrastructure vendors are starting to pile up customer requests that can only be solved by managing the metadata associated with the large number of artifacts that go into (SOAs),” he said.

For example, customers want the ability to centrally manage and track WSDL (Web Services Description Language) for services and see everywhere they are being used, he said.

However, BEA will have work to do to sort out Flashline’s roll in the AquaLogic product family, especially given BEA’s prior reliance on Systinet.

“There’s some overlap in terms of policy and runtime metadata, such as where services are located. Are they stored in the registry, the repository or both? Who will be in charge of the metadata,” Thompson said.

“The acquisition still leaves BEA lacking with regard to Service metadata management and the registry,” said Ronald Schmelzer, a senior analyst at Zapthink in an e-mail message.

“Other vendors like Infravio and LogicLibrary have a more comprehensive offering for the market for SOA metadata management, registry, and governance than (Flashline).BEA will have to play catch up to add those capabilities or maintain their relationship with Systinet,” he wrote.

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