Early Web Services Mover Launches Startup

When Rajiv Gupta co-created e-speak for Hewlett-Packard back in the
early ’90s, he knew he had a unique technology on his hands, one in which
modular software boasted unparalleled flexibility in performing a variety of
functions.


Getting these code components to work for electronic business was
another matter and e-speak, while a novel
concept, morphed into HP’s Web Services Platform. Since that time,
Gupta has moved on from Hewlett-Packard to mold his better-informed, finer-honed
vision of Web services. His new company is called Confluent and it is a pure
Web services software play.


Confluent, formerly Corporate Oxygen and funded by from Apax Partners
and UV Partners, is focused on an emerging niche that looks to offer
management capabilities in Web services platforms. To that end, the Sunnyvale, Calif. company hopes
to lure businesses with its CORE Web Services Integration and Management
Platform, which includes management features for security, failure,
performance, change and problem diagnosis.


For his part, Gupta said he has learned a lot from successes and
failures with the e-speak. He carries with him what he calls the “scar tissue”
of his experiences at HP .


“With e-speak, we focused too much on the technology and not enough on
how we can make that technology work for the enterprise. It was rich and
complex, but not very useable,” Gupta told internetnews.com.
“But, along the way, I gained an understanding that it isn’t just about the
technology but what the customer wants to make their business work.”


Gupta said he and his team at Confluent have spoken to more than 200
CIOs, asking them what they are missing and what they require to make Web
services work for them, as well as what they were willing to pay for certain
characteristics.


“What they’ve [CIOS] told us is that ‘we love the promise, but we won’t
even go there unless you give us the control and visibility that we need'”
Gupta said. Gupta said that what Confluent has to offer businesses beyond the
features of major platforms, is more visibility and control into the
applications running on the platforms.

“This is very important to CIOs,” Gupta said. “He or she loses his or
her job if they can’t find consistent control in their platforms,” Gupta
explained.


To be sure, Confluent’s products straddle the line between open Web
services standards and traditional proprietary integration. CORE is platform
neutral, and features a heterogeneous environment of Java and .NET. This is a
tricky position because it raises integration and interoperability issues.


Gupta said Confluent has worked through such issues by forging
alliances with Ascential Software, BEA, IBM, Mercury Interactive, Microsoft and
Sun Microsystems, Confluent to reduce integration issues. These pacts,
Gupta said, play a critical role in the company’s strategy, putting them in a
competitive position.


What the analysts are saying

What is Confluent focusing on that the major players such as Microsoft,
IBM and BEA are not? Stencil Group Principal Brent Spinner told
internetnews.com the big guys are about creating tools and
run-times for Web services to be created on, and ultimately look to enable Web
services connections.


“Confluent are looking at what happens when you introduce them to the
environment,” Spinner said. “It’s one thing to enable Web services on
one application, or even two, three, or four. But just picture when these
things
all over the place. It’s chaotic. Companies like Confluent are aiming
to
provide one framework for managing Web services. Certainly, you can
apply
software to software to solve technology. How do you deal with
failover? How
does a CIO know what is happening in his business? That’s what these
startups are addressing.”


The other companies who adhere to similar Web services management goals
as
Confluent include upstarts WestGlobal, Blue Titan, AmberPoint and Talking Blocks.


Spinner said these are all firms trying to differentiate themselves in
the
market despite the fact that their goal is similar. None of them, he
said,
looks to be a clear winner because the niche is so young. But Confluent
has
the high-profile of Gupta and his team to throw around.


What do they need to do to succeed?


“Gupta is right,” Spinner said. “It’s not about the technology. These
companies are putting out credible software and they have strengths in
different areas. It’s about who is going to run the best business. The
standards help commodities the technology. It comes down to who can
manage
customer relationships.”


Summit Strategies’ Dwight Davis said Confluent has a good strategy in
recognizing that Web services needs are evolving from qualitative to
quantitative forms. As good as it is on paper though, Web services
management may be ahead of demand, he said.


“Companies like Confluent aren’t going head to head with major platform
vendors,” Davis told internetnews.com. “They are looking to
build on
the development tools.


Still, Davis maintains such companies are critical for the future of
the
sector.


“Rajiv helped drive the idea of component-based computing,” Davis said.
“With his expertise and credentials, Rajiv has helped Confluent form
relationships that would have been harder for another startup company
to
establish.”

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