IBM’s DataPower Buy Should Help Speed SOA Adoption

IBM announced yesterday that it has bought DataPower, a private maker of devices that speed the processing of XML (extensible markup language). The move is a good one for IBM, because “it’s one of those acquisitions that stretches across the breadth of the company,” Frank Dzubeck, president, Communication Network Architects, told TechNewsWorld.

DataPower, founded in 1999, sells three products that all offload the processing of XML: a basic box that parses the messages, one that adds a security gateway and one that adds transformation services.

Big and Bulky

XML is a standard of tagging used to allow communication between various devices and applications, but it has downsides, such as security weaknesses and bulkiness, that have slowed its adoption and the spread of service-oriented architectures (SOAs). SOAs loosely bind the network and applications to make resources available to users.

“XML is a chatty language, but it’s the underpinning of everything. That chattiness comes out in that it produces a degree of overhead that has a negative effect with respect to responsiveness and adoption rates. People are hesitant to buy something that might slow you down a bit,” he said.

DataPower’s devices move the XML processing out of the server, where traditionally much of the work has been done, and speed it up. Attempts to speed the parsing using only software have been unsuccessful. Dzubeck predicts that IBM’s investment in DataPower will speed the adoption of SOAs, but that is merely one benefit of the purchase.

Big Plans

In a conference call, Robert LeBlanc, IBM general manager of WebSphere, said the company will look at incorporating the technology into Websphere, Tivoli, DB2 and cell chips, although it is too soon to make any definitive statements.

“I think they’re going to have a lot of fun with it,” Dzubeck said. “They talked about putting it in Power PC and cell chips. The cell chip is in the Xbox which is driven by XML. The cell chip may end up being in whole bunches of things.”

Dzubeck also said that DataPower, founded by MIT engineer Eugene Kuznetsov with other MIT colleagues, has other innovative ideas that, along with the XML processing patents, will belong to IBM.

“There’s a lot of things that were hiding in the closet that they didn’t release because they had to focus on the main business,” he said, adding that some of those things are likely to come to light through IBM.

All of DataPower’s 70 employees will move to IBM and LeBlanc said the company is looking at hiring more people.

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