SOA governance steps into the spotlight

Mercury's Systinet buy illustrates growing requirement for SOA policy planning

Mercury Interactive leapt into SOA governance last week by announcing its intent to acquire Systinet, a leading registry provider. The move signals recognition of SOA's ascendance in the enterprise, for without governance -- the set of policies stipulating design and run-time rules -- SOA would just be a jumble of services.

Registries such as Systinet's play a crucial role in an organization's SOA, pointing to service locations and governance specifications. Mercury executives portrayed Systinet's offerings as a natural fit -- as the largest app lifecycle and performance management company extending its reach into the hottest trend in enterprise technology.

The $105 million cash-based deal is focused on providing Mercury customers with a lifecycle-based vantage point to boosting the quality, performance, and availability of SOA business services, according to Mercury.

"Mercury's been doing a bunch of things in SOA for awhile, but this is a new level of capability built around this notion of what you might think of as the integrity of SOA applications," said Christopher Lochhead, chief marketing officer at Mercury.

Mercury ultimately plans to produce application performance management offerings for SOA. This will be accomplished by combining Systinet governance capabilities with production management functions from Mercury's Business Availability Center, technology for application management.

Optimizing quality, performance, and availability of SOA apps is also part of governance, Mercury said.

Although SOA promises quick time to market for service-based applications, large numbers of services add complexities that Mercury hopes to address, Lochhead said.

The way to "chaos-proof" SOA is by ensuring the integrity of how SOA components work together, Lochhead added. "As we move to SOA by adding Systinet technology, we really become the go-to company for the CIO as well as the architecture group, the operations group, for moving to SOA."

Systinet technology will be incorporated within Mercury's Business Technology Optimization offerings. Key Systinet products include Systinet Registry -- a UDDI-compliant registry for managing and publishing services -- and Systinet Policy Manager, which streamlines policy creation and automates service validation.

The registry is key for Mercury, said Gartner analyst Frank Kenney. "It puts them squarely in the SOA world by offering a registry."

Systinet customers, meanwhile, will enjoy the stability of having a large vendor behind Systinet's technology. "Certainly, becoming a part of the Mercury [family] provides that security," said Thomas Erickson, CEO of Systinet, which will be run as a business unit of Mercury. The acquisition should also help differentiate Systinet in a crowded registry market.

Analysts said the acquisition may signal a trend in which smaller companies that have roots in Web services management and SOA governance are bought up by larger vendors.

"We see very rapid consolidation in this market," said Ronald Schmelzer, senior analyst at ZapThink.

Copyright © 2006 IDG Communications, Inc.

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