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Sun Microsystems is buying its way into the Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) club dominated by IBM, with the $387m purchase of SeeBeyond Technologies.

As part of the deal, announced early Tuesday, SeeBeyond's 60 sales staff will be used to lead Sun's own sales efforts pitching a range of Sun-branded SOA tools and adaptors to customers. SeeBeyond has a total of 814 employees - most of which are expected to join Sun.

Sun will integrate SeeBeyond's Integrated Composite Application Network (ICAN) suite into the Java Enterprise System (JES) while, Sun said, also continuing to make ICAN available as a separate product. ICAN, which already supports a number of Sun products, will stretch to cover all of Sun's enterprise software products during the next six months.

ICAN is SeeBeyond's integration platform, providing drag-and-drop tools for application, data and business integration, and is capable of working in Java, XML and SQL. ICAN allows customers to build composite applications, an architecture that uses features and data found in other applications and assembled as a service.

SeeBeyond has 2,000 enterprise customers spanning manufacturing and health, with possibly its highest profile deal being the $28m e-record system, integrating data in legacy systems for the UK's National Health Service (NHS).

Jim Demetriades, SeeBeyond founder and chief executive, told The Register: "We are going to lead [Sun's] sales team in the sale of SOAs, and train and teach Sun's sales people."

Scott McNealy, Sun chairman and CEO said the idea mirrored Sun's $4.1bn StorageTek acquisition. "That increased our data management expertise by an order of magnitude. They [SeeBeyond] are the lead dog in this space, without a doubt."

Purchase of an integration company by Sun is long overdue and comes at the point when the industry is turning integration into a SOA story - where applications and data are delivered as services. Until now, Sun filled the integration gap in its portfolio through a technology and marketing partnership with SeeBeyond, to port components of ICAN to JES.

IBM is the largest vendor in this space, according to analysts, having been locked in competition, primarily, with BEA Systems for the top slot. SeeBeyond has been competing against IBM, BEA and smaller vendors like webMethods.

Lacking its own integration product, Sun has led the Java Business Integration (JBI) specification through the Java Community Process (JCP). JBI provides a way for different integration architectures to talk to each other through Java.

Sun announced backing from 19 companies for JBI on Monday, in addition to releasing its Java Enterprise Service Bus (ESB), a reference implementation of JBI, to the community. SeeBeyond will become Sun's JBI implementation, Sun said.

Acquisition of SeeBeyond signals a growing presence by Sun in vertical markets and small and medium businesses (SMBs). Sun will work with Systems Integrators and consultants like Accenture and EDS to build reference architectures to integrate applications and systems in specific markets.

IBM has been successful in taking knowledge from its services organization in specific sectors and wrapping that with WebSphere middleware integration tools to help customers integrate legacy systems and build SOAs.

Demetriades said 34 per cent of SeeBeyond's revenue comes from the health sector, of which a large proportion of customers can be considered SMBs with between $5m and $25m in annual revenue. Around 60 per cent of SeeBeyond's revenue comes from manufacturing, finance and government. ®

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