Oracle Fills In More Enterprise Stack Holes with AmberPoint Acquisition

by: Dana Gardner

This guest post comes courtesy of Tony Baer’s OnStrategies blog. Tony is a senior analyst at Ovum.

Thanks go out to Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) on Feb. 8 for finally putting us out of our suspense. AmberPoint was one of a dwindling group of still-standing software independents delivering run-time governance for SOA environments.

It’s a smart move for Oracle as it patches some gaps in its Enterprise Manager offering, not only in SOA runtime governance, but also with business transaction management – and potentially – better visibility to non-Oracle systems. Of course, that visibility will in part depend on the kindness of strangers as AmberPoint partners like Microsoft (NASDAQ:MSFT) and Software AG (OTCQX:STWRY) might not be feeling the same degree of love going forward.

We’re surprised that AmberPoint was able to stay independent for as long as it had, because the task that it performs is simply one piece of managing the run-time. When you manage the connecting of services, and delivering the right service levels to the right consumers, ultimately you are looking at a larger problem because services do not exist on their own desert island.

Neither should runtime SOA governance. As we’ve stated again and again, it makes little sense to isolate run-time governance from IT Service Management. The good news is that with the Oracle acquisition, there are potential opportunities, not only for converging runtime SOA governance with application management, but as Oracle digests the Sun acquisition, providing full visibility down to the infrastructure level.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here as the emergence of a unified, Oracle on Sun turnkey stack won’t happen overnight. And the challenge of delivering an integrated solution will be as much cultural as technical, as the jurisdictional boundary between software development and IT operations blurs. But we digress.

Nonetheless, over the past couple years, AmberPoint itself has begun reaching out from its island of SOA runtime, as it extended its visibility to business transaction management. AmberPoint is hardly alone here as we’ve seen a number of upstarts like AppDynamics or Bluestripe (typically formed by veterans of Wiley and HP/Mercury), burrowing down into the space of instrumenting transactions from hop to hop. Transaction monitoring and optimization will become the next battleground of application performance management, and it is one that IBM, BMC, CA, HP (NYSE:HPQ), and Compuware (NASDAQ:CPWR) are hardly likely to passively watch from the sidelines.

Last one standing

As for whether run-time SOA governance demands a Switzerland-style independent vendor approach, that leaves it up to the last one standing, SOA Software, to fight the good fight. Until now, AmberPoint and SOA Software have competed for the affections of Microsoft; AmberPoint has offered an Express web services monitoring product that is a free plug-in for Visual Studio (a version is also available for Java); SOA Software offers extensive .NET versions of its service policy, portfolio, repository, and service manager offerings.

Nonetheless, although AmberPoint isn’t saying anything outright about the WebLogic (now Oracle's, formerly BEA's) share of its 300-customer installed base, that platform was first among equals when it came to R&D investment and presence. BEA previously OEM’ed the AmberPoint management platform, an arrangement that Oracle ironically discontinued; well in this case, the story ends happily ever after. As for SOA Software, we would be surprised if this deal didn’t push it into a closer embrace with Microsoft.

Postscript: Thanks to Ann Thomas Manes for updating me on AmberPoint’s alliances. They are/were with SAP, TIBCO Software (NASDAQ:TIBX), and HP, in addition to Microsoft. Their Software AG relationship has faded in recent years.

Of course all this M&A rearranges the dance floor in interesting ways. Oracle currently OEMs HP’s Systinet as its SOA registry, an arrangement that might get awkward now that Oracle’s getting into the hardware business. That will place into question virtually all of AmberPoint’s relationships.

Disclosure: TIBCO, CA, HP and Compuware are sponsors of BriefingsDirect podcasts.