This time the buy is Bowstreet. You may remember it as one of the many business-to-business (B2B) enablers that had to find other work when the “exploding!” B2B market imploded instead. Or you may remember it as “the next big thing” for Frank Moss, the ex-IBMer who built Tivoli Systems and sold it to his old bosses for quite a tidy sum. While still swaddled in best-in-class buzzwords—SOA not least among them—Bowstreet today is a much more constrained and practical company, led by anothermanagement group entirely.
IBM positions the combination of WebSphere Portal and Portlet Factory as a solution for composite application development. Note the use of “a” and not “the”. Here lies the single biggest challenge for IBM going forward. It offers multiple solutions for composite applications, including the Portlet Factory, Workplace Designer, WebSphere Integration Developer for development and WebSphere Portal, WebSphere Process Server, WebSphere ESB, Workplace for deployment. Customers are likely to confused by the array of alternatives and IBM is going to have to work hard to explain which approach makes sense when.
The deal is even getting attention from Microsoft bloggers (the new ex-Lotus generation). Cliff Reeves says:
My take is that this is a necessary step to help IBM simplify portal development. IBM announced a partnership with Bowstreet almost exactly three years ago, based on this premise. However, since that time, Microsft Sharepoint has been growing fast and simplicity has been one of its major advantages over Websphere Portal Server.
In addition, Bowstreet has also helped IBM integrate between Domino and its replacement technology, Workplace (which is based on Websphere)
My take? IBM is preparing itself for a full frontal assault on Microsoft, in the Vista timeframe, and wants to quickly fill out its portfolio of productivity tools and connectors to allow a broad play around integrating information services. Mendocino, Microsoft and SAP’s joint front-end for business apps, is an obvious target. IBM can’t afford to see Microsoft own the application front-end as XML enables richer information flows between application boundaries. Another target – BEA and Plumtree. Oracle is a Bowstreet partner as well, which is a nice bonus for IBM: the Bowstreet Oracle relationship just became strictly contractual.
IBM is traditionally strong in integration behind the glass, but not so much on the pane. Bowstreet fills out IBM’s story with respect to portal-based integration of information services.
Welcome to the IBM WebSphere Portlet Factory for Composite Applications.