IBM has acquired DataPower Technology Inc., a Cambridge, Mass.-based company that markets appliances to boost the security and performance of message traffic flowing through service-oriented architectures.

The move, announced Wednesday, marks IBM’s first foray into the SOA hardware market. IBM acquired DataPower to help users improve the performance and security of SOAs, said Robert LeBlanc, general manager of WebSphere at IBM. The DataPower appliances will help users optimize the flow of business transactions through SOAs, he said.

Financial terms of the acquisition of privately held DataPower were not disclosed.

“Customers are deploying DataPower [appliances] in front of application servers to improve performance and security,” LeBlanc said. “You’re offloading some of the XML message processing to the front end … to get more throughput through WebSphere. We look at this as complementary to what WebSphere does today.”

IBM plans to introduce appliances based on the DataPower technology and will provide details about that product family later this year, he said.

DataPower has three appliances today: one for boosting the performance of XML processing, one to add security to high-speed messaging processing and one for message transformation and integration.

Eugene Kuznetsov, chairman and chief technology officer of DataPower, said the appliances are designed to take traditional software middleware functionality and package it into an appliance. “The people who need DataPower gear are serious about SOA,” he said. “They are looking to get high throughput and high scalability.”

Through previous relationships with IBM, the appliances already have integration with WebSphere and Tivoli products, he said.

The acquisition marks the first time a large platform vendor has acquired hardware to fill out its SOA product portfolio, said Ron Schmelzer, an analyst at ZapThink LLC in Waltham, Mass. The deal signals an acknowledgment on IBM’s part that hardware and network appliances are as important as software in making SOA a reality, Schmelzer said.

This will put pressure on platform vendors such as BEA Systems Inc. and Oracle Corp. to consider how they can broaden their SOA offerings beyond software and professional services, he added.

“IBM sees the DataPower product as an extension of their software, [and] they will be looking to add the DataPower products to their WebSphere total product,” Schmelzer said. “This means a drastically enlarged opportunity for DataPower and a much more integrated story for existing DataPower customers that are also IBM customers.”