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Sun Faces Challenges with SeeBeyond Purchase

Sun Microsystem’s announcement this week of its intent to purchase SeeBeyond Technology shakes up the application integration space, but the impact of the deal will largely depend on Sun’s skill in executing the purchase.

The $387 million agreement will add SeeBeyond’s ICAN to the five suites in Sun’s Java Enterprise System. ICAN, which stands for Integrated Composite Application Network, is a suite of tools for integration and business process management. It fills a void in Sun’s service-oriented architecture strategy, according to Forrester Research analyst Mike Gilpin. “Before this acquisition,” Gilpin says, “Sun’s applications platform suite, and by implication its SOA strategy, was only half baked.” With SeeBeyond, Gilpin says, “Sun has the raw material with which to challenge IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, BEA and SAP in SOA. It’s unlikely Sun will knock IBM or Microsoft off their thrones, but Oracle and BEA are in range, if [Sun] plays the game adroitly.”

SeeBeyond developed on Solaris and uses NetBeans, Sun chairman and CEO Scott McNealy pointed out in announcing the deal on Tuesday. ICAN 5.1, which is slated to ship in August, can be used to deploy applications on Sun’s application server.

While the purchase is a good fit because the companies’ products are complementary and the companies have similar philosophies, the benefit for customers of either company isn’t as clear, according to ZapThink analyst Jason Bloomberg.

The challenge that SOA presents to middleware vendors such as SeeBeyond, Bloomberg says, is that companies simply “don’t need to buy that much new software to make SOA work. SOA is best practices. It’s architecture. It’s a discipline that may involve some software purchases, but you can build SOA on whatever you have.” In that sense, adding integration software to Sun’s existing JES suite “isn’t going to make their SOA software story any stronger per se.”

SeeBeyond, which has been losing money, will continue to face a big challenge after the acquisition, Bloomberg says, because ICAN is essentially a proprietary EAI platform. That doesn’t lend itself well to SOA. In ICAN, Bloomberg says, SeeBeyond “built a platform that supports open standards and that interoperates…and called it SOA-this and SOA-that. But it’s still a proprietary EAI platform. The pieces of ICAN work together on a very tightly coupled basis, using some of the nuts and bolts of how the Java language works. That works, but it’s not inherently service-oriented.”

About the Author

Linda Briggs is a freelance writer based in San Diego, Calif. She can be reached at lbriggs@lindabriggs.com.

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