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Securent Could Be a Fine Addition for Oracle

As a journalist in the high-tech space, every now and then I get to hear things that make me think two companies would be a perfect marriage.

Not that I'm advocating that companies land on other companies and absorb them, even though it gives us more to talk, pontificate and write about.

But sometimes two companies seem destined to be intertwined, either in a partnership or in an acquisition.

I believe Oracle , which has shown no hesitation in shelling out for cash for technologies, customers or other assets it covets, should acquire Securent Corp.

The purchase makes sense for a myriad of reasons. Securent makes entitlement management software, which some experts consider the next frontier in identity management for Web-based businesses.

But, you say, Oracle already has an extensive security software portfolio. True.

Two years ago, the software maker bought federated identity specialist Phaos. Over a year ago, it acquired single sign-on specialist Oblix.

The company later added identity provisioning concern Thor Technologies and virtual directory software maker OctetString.

Rolled together, these products formed Oracle's Identity Management 10g suite, which analysts say is kind of a pearl in the industry among other rocks for its completeness and resiliency against unauthorized users in the enterprise.

But Oracle is hardly done; it means to be the market leader in security infrastructure software, which means it needs to cover every base, no matter how simple or complex.

Thomas Kurian, a senior vice president for Oracle's server technologies, told internetnews.com at a recent meeting with press and analysts that Oracle was developing a new "micro-entitlements" feature that will allow people to get authorization privileges on a much more fine-grained basis.

These privileges last for a very short duration to keep security tight.

"That's the big requirement right now for a number of telecommunications companies that have self-service, external-access systems," Kurian said.

Securent addresses those needs with its Entitlement Management Solution (EMS). The company uses an architecture called DEEP (Distributed Externalized Entitlement Platform), which separates security logic -- data about users and policies -- from the application layer.

Is it possible Oracle could build these entitlement capabilities? Sure.

But Securent has customers in production, including Qualcomm and Credit Suisse, so we're not talking about vaporware. We're talking about a proven product.

And check out the synergies between Oracle and Securent.

EMS comes in a Linux appliance, or strictly as a software package, supporting both Java and .NET. It runs on standard J2EE software servers, including WebSphere, WebLogic, and open source stacks. EMS also runs on Windows, Linux and Unix machines.

Oracle loves Linux (see last month's Red Hat power move), Java, and even hugs .NET where it needs to.

The software is based on Extensible Access Control Markup Language (XACML) for standards-based policy creation, which Oracle helped define at OASIS.

Oracle loves its standards.

There are a couple things Oracle could do with Securent.

It could acquire, integrate and position Securent as a separate suite within its middleware security, called Oracle Entitlement Management.

Or it could simply tuck the technology into Oracle's Identity Management suite, joining single sign-on, user provisioning, identity federation and directory services.

Oracle is also familiar with Securent's management. Securent co-founders Rajiv Gupta and Sekhar Sarukkai were the brain trust behind HP's E-Speak Web services movement and Web services management startup Confluent Software.

Oblix eventually bought Confluent, and as I already mentioned, Oblix got picked up by Oracle.

So, you can bet that Oracle is very familiar with the none-too-shabby pedigree of Team Gupta and Sarukkai.

During an introductory meeting with Securent, I told Gupta about Oracle's interest in micro-entitlements, to which he replied that it's just another name for what his company's Entitlement Management Solution does.

Without prompting, he told me: "I'm not at liberty to discuss some of the partnership discussions [Securent is] having... it's too early."

I got the distinct feeling there is something there. Oracle did not respond to queries about a relationship to Securent.

True, Kurian did say Oracle was looking to build entitlement software, but we also thought it was going to roll all of its ID management software on its own at one point years ago.

Oracle also led us to believe it was going to build an enterprise content management supersystem (remember Tsunami?), but it ended up bidding for Stellent.

Oracle may be the least shy high-tech power when it comes to buying what it feels it needs to compete.

Speaking of competition, startups in the entitlement management space are scant. Gupta says they are pretty much the only entitlement upstart out there.

I found one called Cranium Softworks, which specializes in entitlement management for content publishing and delivery.

Oracle may be waiting to see who else comes out with a product to do some comparison shopping, but the company shouldn't sit on this one.

Oracle rivals BEA and CA are already well into the entitlement game.

BEA offers AquaLogic Enterprise Security (ALES) 2.5, which is "an entitlement and centralized policy management solution."

CA makes Embedded Entitlements Manager, which seems to be pretty robust.

Were Oracle to pick up Securent, integrate it and sic its sales hound on customers it could find itself catching up with BEA  and CA .

But at the least, it would be ahead of rival IBM , which has a solid security infrastructure foundation in its Tivoli group.

IBM offers no real entitlement management, so you could argue it would be just as likely to inquire about Securent's, how should we say it, availability.

Finally, Oracle could make a lot of money offering entitlement management software. Gupta is convinced entitlement management will take the security software market to new heights for vendors.

"Entitlement is the next big wave of enterprise security," Gupta said. "By most measures, it is expected to be larger than the market of traditional identity management that came before us."

"Each department of each Fortune 5000 company is about a $200,000, $250,000 or $300,OOO sale for us. So that's a $2.5 billion market, just in a very simple aggregate This market is huge. We are driving the market."

What more reason does Oracle need than that?