Volume 17, Number 4 -- January 28, 2008

IBM Buys AptSoft, Bringing Yet Another Twist to the SOA Story

Published: January 28, 2008

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

Last week, IBM bought yet another small, esoteric supplier of software--this one called AptSoft--that is being billed as yet another piece of the SOA software empire that the company is trying to build as hardware becomes less relevant in the IT market.

AptSoft, which is based in Burlington, Massachusetts, is a provider of software that does complex event processing, or CEP, which is a kind of functionality that we used to call mid-level manager. You know--the living, breathing one who was given access to computers over the past several decades and who made decisions about the raw materials, production, and sale of a company's product. And once again, computers and their software are being brought to bear on automating some of the analysis and processes that are used to bring disparate information to bear on better running a business.

What AptSoft Director for CEP, the company's key product, does is weave itself into the mangled mess of applications that companies have, and having done that, it can sift through information contained in it (based on thousands and thousands of rules created by the company) and make correlations between the data and react to it, in real time, to affect a change. AptSoft Director can even bring in people into the process, since they are just another part of the aggregate machine it is hooked into. In a sense, CEP creates an operating system.

IBM seems to want everything that is not a core, system-level bit of software like an operating system, a database, or a Web server, to be SOA; IBM didn't explain the relationship between CEP and SOA in plain English when it announced the AptSoft acquisition last week. But there are some parallels and some ways the two can work hand-in-hand. (IBM did say that.) CEP is all about monitoring business activities and processes, which is done through tight integration into corporate applications, and then creating a real-time, event processing engine that can do X, Y, or Z when a certain condition is met. CEP software can and is used to play the various stock markets against each other, but it can also be used for such mundane tasks as figuring out the optimal prices for products given conditions right now, based on actual supply and demand. The SOA approach to writing software can supply the wires by which applications and people are linked together to create applications as well as for links by CEP software, but the CEP software is almost like a superuser on the system, one that is not able to process transactions, but rather changes the conditions under which transactions are processed in a complex environment. Or so it seems to someone who has never even heard of this stuff (that would be me, and probably you, too).

The financial details behind the AptSoft acquisition were not disclosed. IBM says that it will merge the AptSoft products into its WebSphere brand within Software Group, and it has begun, in typical IBM fashion, calling complex event processing by a new name, "business event processing." But don't you think IBM will be forgoing those military and homeland security dollars. AptSoft Director joins other event-processing middleware in the IBM stack, including WebSphere Event Broker, WebSphere Business Monitor, DB2 Real-Time Insight, and Tivoli NetCool. AptSoft was founded in 2002, and only a few customers so far (the official word was under 20, which is vague). All of the company's employees, including its founder and chief executive officer, Frank Chisolm, will be absorbed into Software Group operations in Massachusetts.

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Editor: Timothy Prickett Morgan
Contributing Editors: Dan Burger, Joe Hertvik, Brian Kelly, Shannon O'Donnell,
Mary Lou Roberts, Victor Rozek, Kevin Vandever, Hesh Wiener, Alex Woodie
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