Iona vs the giants

Iona's November elucidation of the next evolution of its corporate strategy brought a smile to my face for many reasons. The principal reason being the fact that this relatively small vendor (at least compared to Gorillas like IBM and BEA) stole a march on the market—Iona becomes the first middleware vendor to really move beyond talk about 'how web services will rock your world' to the delivery of technology that IT people can use.

To be fair, IBM, undoubtedly one of the leading lights in the Web services movement, has delivered Web services support in its development tools. But at this stage IBM's offering is best described as 'toolkit' functionality rather than full-blown support. And Borland has similarly added Web services support to its Delphi, Jbuilder, and Kylix tools, but like IBM the company has yet to truly Web service-enable its middleware offering.

On the other hand, Iona has made a major commitment to Web services as an approach to integration that is as suited (if not more) to internal EAI as it is to the mad-bad world of B2B e-commerce. I like this approach for two reasons. First (to the great boredom of my colleagues), I've been going on about Web services extending to an 'intranet EAI approach' for months. And second, my end-user clients have been going on about Web services as an 'intranet EAI approach' for every bit as long.

Iona has gained some time on the competition and, even better, has a customer or two to prove its plan works. But in this market a technical or strategic head-start is measured in weeks not months, and IBM has a significant incentive to catch up. Each time one of its customers installs 'foreign' middleware on one of its mainframes IBM kisses goodbye a chunk of revenue. Sometimes this chunk amounts to millions of dollars.

The onus is now on IONA to monetize its head start, and build a base of loyal, and ideally vocal, customers to create an anchor in a part of the market that will very shortly be crowded with 800-pound apes.

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About the Author

Gary Barnett is IT research director at Ovum Ltd., a United Kingdom-based consulting firm.