IBM acquires middleware tools vendor

IBM this week will announce its acquisition of New York-based Planetworks, an 11-person vendor of software for integrating development tools and application servers with enterprise-level middleware, such as IBM's CICS, MQSeries and TXSeries.

Planetworks' Interspace add-on tools allow developers using graphical tools such as Visual Basic, PowerBuilder, and VisualAge to integrate their applications with a variety of enterprise middleware.

IBM plans to incorporate Interspace technology within its VisualAge tools line and other development and application server environments, including WebSphere and Lotus Notes/Domino. It will focus future use of the technology on its own middleware line. Interspace currently provides links to other vendors' middleware.

Planetworks boasts a customer base of roughly 150. Terms of the cash transaction were not available.

The move opens IBM's middleware and application server software to the legions of Visual Basic and PowerBuilder developers, and offers organisations a way to better leverage the skill sets of those developers, according to Beth Gold-Bernstein, an analyst at the Hurwitz Group, a consultancy in Framingham.

"IBM's move is a really strategic one. It gives the armies of VB [Visual Basic] and PowerBuilder programmers access to IBM middleware, so they can use WebSphere and get to the mainframe using their existing skills," Gold-Bernstein said. "It's very expensive to migrate skill sets."

The Planetworks object-wrappering technology gives IBM a key tool in countering Microsoft's emerging, though still relatively limited middleware efforts, according to Gold-Bernstein.

"Microsoft's infrastructure -- MTS and MSMQ -- is not as robust and scaleable as IBM's WebSphere," Gold-Bernstein said. "It's a very timely play on behalf of IBM to win the hearts and minds of developers who are perhaps migrating. Developers now have a choice of a more scaleable infrastructure."

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