September 3, 2003 11:08 AM PDT

HP buys into Web services management

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Hewlett-Packard on Wednesday accelerated its push into the market for Web services management software by acquiring start-up Talking Blocks.

Privately held Talking Blocks, founded in 2000, sells software for providing Web services security, tracking Web services applications and managing application processing. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Talking Blocks is one of a handful of small companies that builds management software for Web services, an emerging set of industry standards and guidelines for sharing information among disparate systems.

HP said it would incorporate the Talking Blocks software within its OpenView management software, which monitors information technology operations and spots problems like an overloaded server or a malfunctioning storage device.

The Talking Blocks software will become the foundation for HP's Web services management product line, company executives said. HP hopes to mesh its own homegrown Web services management "engine," used by only a few customers, with the Talking Blocks code.

HP executives said the acquisition of Talking Blocks will speed up HP's time to market for Web services management products and also advance its adaptive enterprise vision. HP, IBM, Sun Microsystems, Computer Associates International and others have each developed their own utility, or on-demand, computing initiatives designed to help companies better use their existing data center resources and be more responsive.

The move also thins out the field for Web services management start-ups. Talking Blocks, in part, agreed to the HP acquisition in order to help it attract business customers who are wary of working with smaller companies that have a short track record and private funding, said Mark Potts, Talking Blocks' chief technology officer. CA and IBM are also moving into Web services management.

"HP's acquisition of Talking Blocks signals the expected consolidation of the Web services management space," said Jason Bloomberg, an analyst at research firm ZapThink. "Only Computer Associates is positioned at this time to give HP a run for its money."

The performance information the Talking Blocks software generates will feed into HP's Utility Data Center product line, which can make the appropriate changes to computing infrastructure, explained Nora Denzel, senior vice president of HP Software's global business unit.

For example, the Talking Blocks and OpenView software can determine that a given number of servers will not be able to process stock transactions by the end of the day and feed that management information to the Utility Data Center software, which can automatically dedicate servers from a less time-sensitive application to the more pressing task, she explained.

HP said the Talking Blocks software employs a services-oriented architecture that allows applications that are written for different programming models or operating systems to share information. That software foundation will allow companies to manage a wide range of applications, not only those that are written according to Web services standards, executives said.

An industrywide mechanism for sharing management information between products from different providers, which uses Web services standards, is now being developed by a committee at the standards group OASIS. A draft specification for the standard is expected early next year.

The planned acquisition of Talking Blocks postdates several other deals HP has inked to bolster its software portfolio. Last month, the company bought a consulting firm to increase its expertise in Microsoft's .Net Web services software, and in July it purchased a voice-portal software maker.

 

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