The march of Progress: another SOA mega-deal

IONA to become subsidiary of Progress Software

Where have all the SOA and integration companies gone? Gone to larger vendors, every one.

This morning, Progress Software disclosed that it is acquiring IONA Technologies in a deal worth about $162 million. Soon, Progress can say "I own IONA." And SOA is driving the deal.

IONA to become subsidiary of Progress Software

Progress Software has assembled quite a collection of SOA and enterprise computing technologies in recent years, which includes ESB provider Sonic, SOA management/governance vendor Actional, mainframe data integration specialist DataDirect, and mainframe-to-Web vendor NEON Systems (now part of the DataDirect Shadow line).

But Progress isn't known to swallow companies and products and make them disappear from the face of the earth, as is so often the case in acquisitions. The company has maintained these acquisitions as distinct brands within its offerings, and indeed, indicates that IONA would be maintained as an "indirect wholly owned subsidiary."

Progress said the IONA acquisition helps round out its product line to provide a "complete SOA backbone" for customers. The company said the deal is expected to close in September, pending regulatory approval in the U.S., IONA shareholder approval, and issuance of an order by the Irish High Court.

Fellow ZDNet commentator Dana Gardner provides some perspective on the announcement, noting that while the two companies maintain U.S. headquarters within 20 minutes of each other in the Boston area, they come from two different corners of the IT market: "Progress has its roots in tightly coupled, client-server tools (Progress 4GL) and runtime platforms, while IONA, based in Dublin, Ireland, hails from the CORBA and middleware messaging and integration space."

IONA's Artix product line offers Web standards based integration technologies for exposing legacy applications to SOA implementations, as well as open source SOA integration components through its FUSE product line.  IONA also has endpoint integration with Microsoft's .NET Windows Communications Framework and the open source Spring Java application framework. Progress said these offerings are "fully compatible with the Progress Sonic ESB."

However, not everyone sees this deal as having significant implications. Dennis Byron, for one, observed: "Effectively this means little to the independent middleware market which had already collapsed in upon itself when BEA was folded into Oracle." He added that "IONA had ceased to be a major factor in the market early this decade, struggling to turn it around from a plateau one-third the size of its 2001 peak of $180 million in revenue." Both Dennis and Dana note that IONA adds some plum telecommunication and financial services firms to Progress' customer roster, however.

Dana's main outstanding concern with the acquisition is how deeply Progress will support the open source model IONA has been cultivating -- which may have implications for some Apache projects that IONA has supported.

Dennis put it this way: "If IONA was last man standing in the independent middleware market, Progress can be thought of as last man standing in the closed-source culture. One way IONA was trying to get things going again as an independent was through its embrace of the open source culture, development model and terms and conditions." Dennis adds that IONA's LogicBlaze may compete with the Sonic ESB

But it appears, at least from the press release, that IONA will be retaining a degree of independence, so it may have few constraints pursuing its open source strategy.

There's no doubt the industry is consolidating, as vendors seek to pull together all-in-one approaches to SOA. MomentumSI counted a total of 28 major SOA deals enacted in the last couple of years. Here's one more deal to add to the SOA Consolidation tallysheet. (Irish High Court permitting, of course.)