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Confluent is the object of Oblix's desire

Confluent will likely disappear from the Web services management pack because its security capabilities are coveted by Oblix, a player in the identity management space.

A contender for the top spot in the crowded Web services management field will likely disappear from the pack because...

its security capabilities are coveted by a player in the identity management space.

On Monday, Oblix Inc. is expected to announce its plans to acquire Confluent Software Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif., for an undisclosed sum. Both companies are privately held.

Cupertino, Calif.-based Oblix has about 130 customers for its identity management and Web access control products. International Data Corp., a Framingham, Mass.-based research firm, has predicted that identity management will be a $4 billion market by 2007. That compares to $593 million in 2002.

Ken Sims, Oblix's vice president of marketing, said Confluent's Web services management software will "be a core product" in the Oblix line. He also said that Confluent is a good fit for Oblix because both take a centralized approach to managing processes in distributed online environments.

Confluent, I think, is one of the best Web services management products on the market, and [now] they're going to be pigeon-holed in the security space.
Anne Thomas Manes
research directorBurton Group

Oblix built its business by helping companies bring their business processes online, Sims said. The first phase for customers in this process was deciding "who had access and what they had access to."

"As they move forward, companies are looking at expanding that to not just embracing users accessing systems, but systems accessing other systems," he said.

And that's where service-oriented architecture (SOA) and Web services come into play.

"The people that are doing [SOA] are the ones who bought identity and access management [software] from us two or three years ago," Sims said.

"[Confluent] gives us the ability to manage and configure operational policies and manage things like security aspects, or service-level agreements or compliance -- and to be able to enforce those and monitor them."

Anne Thomas Manes, a research director for Midvale, Utah-based Burton Group, said that it's a good choice for Oblix to expand into the business of securing Web services.

"I'm clearly of the opinion that Web services and identity management must work together," she said. "In order to do identity management, you must use a Web services infrastructure. And you can't really do effective Web services infrastructure without identity management."

But she lamented the loss of Confluent from the ranks of pure-play Web services management providers. "Confluent, I think, is one of the best Web services management products on the market, and [now] they're going to be pigeon-holed in the security space."

Sims said that, of Confluent's approximately 30 employees, Oblix will retain 15, most of whom are technical and sales professionals. Confluent president and chief executive Alain Couder will not be one of them.

The acquisition, a stock transaction, should be complete in a "couple of weeks," Sims said.

In related news, Oblix announced that the U.S. Postal Service has selected Oblix's NetPoint, to be used in conjunction with Windows Server 2003 Active Directory, to provide Web single sign-on, user self-service and delegated administration for the Postal Service's Web site.


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