Iona may be on the block but it is not looking to spin off and sell off its nine-month-old open source business unit, said one key exec.
Larry Alston, vice president and general manager of open source at Iona, acknowledged that the company is exploring strategic options after receiving an unsolicited bid earlier this year but he insists that selling off its open source unit is not an option.
“We’ll try to keep these rumors to a dull roar,” said Alston, intimidating that such gossip, which spread before the Open Source Business Conference in San Francisco last month, likely emanated from an unnamed competitor. “Neither Iona nor anyone retained by Iona has been shopping the open source division separately. It’s not true.”
The Dublin, Ireland and Waltham, Mass. based company, which acquired open source SOA vendor LogicBlaze last April and officially launched its Fuse open source business suite and open source division last July, has captured more new customers in the last six months than Iona has in three years, including several large enterprise deals, Alston said.
At JavaOne, Iona will “make a big deal” out of its upgrade of Fuse based on the Apache’s upcoming OSGi-based ServiceMix 4.0, being shown in preview by the Apache Software Foundation this week, the iona exec added. The Fuse upgrade will ship later this quarter.
And later this year, the 17-year-old company will release another major upgrade of its Artix suite of enterprise SOA-ESB suite.
Iona’s open source business is growing nicely and there are no plans to dump it, he reiterated.
In fact, Iona releases its open source software under the Apache 2.0 license and recently became a financial sponsor of the Apache Software Foundation, he said. Its revenue model is based on support, consulting and training for the Apache ActiveMQ project and Apache ServiceMix project , which was pioneered at LogicBlaze.
Alston had some fightin’ words for open source rival MuleSource, which has gained notorietary as one of the next big open source companies in 2008.
“We don’t think of MuleSource as a competitor. Mule is not ESB. It is intelligent routing and mediation engine, much like [Apache] Camel project,” Alston said. “Mule at its base does not have its own container; it is Spring-based. And they don’t provide service enablement or messaging. Most of Muleforce [customers] use the Fuse message broker. Mule doesn’t have a reliable messaging bus.”
He said the MuleForce engine is nice but “it is a little piece of the whole puzzle. It is positioned as ESB but technically it is not because it doesn’t have its own container and most versions of the connectors are done by third party vendors,” Alston added. “Camel will overtake Mule in the next couple of years, easily.”
Alston also said that MuleForce will have a tough time competing against Iona, which now has more than 350 employees, a full ESB integration and middleware suite and a support staff capable of dealing with its Fortune 20 customers such as AT&T, Southwest Airlines and Lehmann Brothers, which are all moving to open source.
“When we acquired LogicBlaze, they were in the same position as Mulesource is today … a 30 person company,” he added.
MuleSource, a Java-based integration platform company, identifies itself as the “world’s most used open source Enterprise Service Bus” and earlier this year launched its Mule 1.5 Enterprise Edition with support for Apache CXF web services framework. Later this year, Mule plans to launch an enterprise, commercial version of its recently launched Mule Community Edition 2.0.
Iona also competes on the open source front against Sun’s OpenESB and Progress Software’s Sonic ESB.
Open source still represents a fraction of Iona’s revenues relative to its proprietary software business but the unit beat its 2007 estimates in its first six months of operation and “we’re seeing a tremendous uptake since we launched last July,” Alston said. “In the transition, there’s been some confusion because we have Ardix ESB and Fuse ESB but by the end of the year the confusion will be gone.”
But that all depends on whether Iona is scooped up by another vendor. Alston would not comment on potential bidders or a timeframe for a buy. "We're in a process here and its soemthing yet to be determined," Alston said. "This management team has not been managing Iona to be sold."
(By the way, did you know that the name IONA is not an acronym but rather an island in the Irish sea where the Book of Kells was written).