Iona Takes LogicBlaze for Open Source SOA

Iona Technologies , a maker of distributed computing and integration software for service-oriented architectures (SOA), today purchased LogicBlaze, which provides similar technology under an open source license.

The move further positions Iona as a provider of proprietary SOA  software and open source SOA in a crowded market for distributed computing software.

Iona made the buy to bulk up its open source software portfolio, fronted by the Celtix Enterprise, the company’s enterprise service bus (ESB) , and corresponding Celtix Advanced Service Engine server and Advanced Messaging platform.

LogicBlaze makes similar products, including the open source Apache ServiceMix ESB, Apache ActiveMQ for enterprise messaging, as well as the company’s proprietary Fuse SOA composite application and runtime platform.

Financial terms of the cash transaction were not disclosed, but Iona CEO Peter Zotto said on a conference call that large IT organizations will deploy infrastructure components from both open source and company-developed software for the new service-oriented IT environments.

Offering customers both open source and proprietary software, Iona believes, will add new levels of choice for Iona’s customer base, as well as appeal to new customers to desire more flexibility.

But Iona wants LogicBlaze for its talent as much as its software. LogicBlaze co-founders Hiram Chirino, Rob Davies and James Strachan, the key contributors to Apache ActiveMQ and Apache ServiceMix, are a major reason for the transaction.

“Adding the LogicBlaze team to Iona will help us achieve, as planned, our goal to ramp up our open source business in the second half of 2007 and going into 2008,” Zotto said.

With tough competition in the SOA market from vendors such as IBM , BEA Systems  and Oracle , Iona leapt into open source SOA last December as a way to attract a new swath of customers.

Like the models set by MySQL and JBoss before it, Iona offers the Celtix server for free, making money on it through a combination of related technology and corresponding consulting, training and support.

Some customers prefer this free-software, paid-support approach because they don’t necessarily have the perpetual licensing cash, technical wherewithal or time to set up an ESB on their computer networks.

But Iona’s bread-and-butter product has for years been Artix, the company’s proprietary ESB. ZapThink analyst Ronald Schmelzer questioned Iona’s value proposition of straddling the razor-thin fence between open source and proprietary technology.

While Schmelzer said the buy will boost Iona’s momentum in the open source arena and allow the vendor to compete for mindshare in an SOA market that is rapidly consolidating, he wonders how IONA will separate Artix from Celtix.

“They will have a challenge in the marketplace with their positioning,” Schmelzer said. “Do they want to be seen as open source SOA or commercial?”

“If they want to be seen as both, this is quite challenging, and we have not seen an infrastructure company successfully pull off the combination. The company needs to come out with an aggressive positioning on how it plans to accomplish both a successful open source, as well as commercial offering.”

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