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Alcatel and HP Partner on Application-Aware Infrastructure

Alcatel hardware will run HP software in what looks like an anti-IBM alliance.

Alcatel-Lucent today announced an alliance in which Hewlett-Packard's SOA management software will run on Alcatel's SOA hardware. It is centered around Alcatel's OmniAccess 8550 Web Services gateway, an appliance launched in December that combines an XML firewall with an application front end. This is now deeply integrated with HP's Systinet SOA governance software, released last month, and also able to share data with HP's SOA Manager and OpenView.
Partnerships between SOA vendors are nothing new: SOA is all about integrating multiple applications, which ideally would mean open standards but in the real world often means vendors' adopting each others' APIs. The ongoing consolidation in the industry also is giving companies that don't sell everything a powerful incentive to team up. With Alcatel and HP both offering only some pieces of a SOA, their partnership is at least in part an anti-IBM alliance.
What's new is that the HP Systinet software actually runs on the Alcatel box. This doesn't eliminate the need for a separate Systinet server (or cluster of servers, as many customers have very large deployments), but it enables deeper integration than possible using simple APIs. The main Systinet server still hosts the registry and repository databases for use by developers and managers at design-time, while the Systinet component on the OmniAccess appliance enforces policies in real-time.
Together, the two vendors have four out of the five main SOA middleware components. Alcatel brings the XML security and application acceleration hardware, while HP brings the management and governance software. The main thing missing is an enterprise service bus, usually thought of as the most critical SOA component of all. Alcatel says that it will announce a partnership with one or more ESB vendors later in 2008, which will likely involve the ESB running partially on the 8550 hardware just as Systinet does. By next year, it hopes to do the same with application platforms themselves, which would mean partnering with either Microsoft or one of the Java players to allow customer-developed applications to run on the OmniAccess.
Alcatel isn't the only hardware vendor looking at moving software on networking gear, but it is the first to combine multiple SOA products into one. The biggest competitor is Cisco Systems, whose AON modules can accelerate many vendors' application processing but aren't integrated with its ACE XML firewalls and AFEs. The closest is probably F5, whose BIG-IP gateways can inject monitoring code from Symphoniq into outgoing network traffic.
Symphoniq yesterday announced its extension into SOA management, aiming to compete with vendors like AmberPoint, SOA Software, and HP. It had previously been focused on rich Internet apps, embedding JavaScript components in Web pages to get the user's perspective on performance. This approach gives network managers a great insight into how applications perform in the real-world, but on its own it can only detect a problem, not diagnose the cause. Adding management of SOA apps should let it see exactly how each Web service affects the performance of composite applications or mashups.

RELATED LINKS
bullet Analysis: The Virtual Data Center
Alcatel Launches XML Security Box, Searches For Software Partners
The appliance straddles two SOA markets, combining application front-end and XML acceleration features, but Alcatel-Lucent says its scope is even broader.

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