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System and application management tool maker BMC Software today made a rather oblique move into the message queuing middleware space by acquiring a relatively obscure company called MQSoftware.

For most commercial applications, generic message queuing middleware comes in two flavor: IBM's WebSphere MQ (formerly MQSeries) and Microsoft's Message Queuing Middleware (MQM, now part of BizTalk Host Integration Server). But ObjectWeb's open source Joram provides an alternative for coding your own queuing software for asynchronous message passing between application components.

This code has made its way into the JBoss Messaging server from Red Hat, and Red Hat has also put support for the Advanced Message Queuing Protocol into its Enterprise MRG variant of its Enterprise Linux stack. The Apache Project has implemented AMQP in a bit of code called QPid. Oracle has something called Advanced Queuing that provides similar middleware functions, and there are specialized messaging systems, such as Tibco's for financial services, aimed at specific industries.

This is by no means exhaustive list. But suffice it to say that for certain kinds of big applications, message queuing software is a necessary glue for distributed applications because sometimes servers are down or systems are just running slowly, and you still don't want a transaction to stall just because a backend system is not performing well. So instead of hard-coding the transactions pieces to not continue unless each stage of the transaction is completed, you carve up the transaction into messages and then queue them up on different parts of the application's servers.

Say, for instance, you have an application server and a database. If the database is down or moving slowly, a transaction can still complete as far as the end user banging away on the application server is concerned, thanks to message queuing between the application and database servers. When the database server has more capacity, you just process the messages stored up to make all the backend stuff work out.

BMC is not interested in selling such software, but rather, as you might expect given its long history, it wants to peddle products that allow it to babysit message queuing middleware.

Hence the acquisition of MQSoftware, a company that was founded in 1996, four years after IBM and Microsoft both tapped the same basic code base to create their respective MQSeries and MQM products. The company was originally a service and implementation specialist for MQSeries until it launched its own message monitoring product, called Q Pasa, a few years later.

The Minneapolis, Minnesota software firm acquired a set of tools called AppWatch to help programmers cope with WebSphere MQ and created another called AppWise that helps manage and monitor Tibco messaging. The company also sells a product called StatWatch, an audit tool for WebSphere MQ, and an application integration tool called DataFlow Studio. The basic idea is that these tools can see what is going on in these distributed applications and actually figure out where the performance bottlenecks are.

BMC did a little survey work ahead of the acquisition of MQSoftware and found that 92 per cent of large IT shops in the world have WebSphere MQ deployed on mainframe, Unix, Windows, Linux, or proprietary systems. Across all company sizes, BMC discovered that 66 per cent of shops were using the IBM messaging middleware. (Presumably this was not a survey that included SMB shops). BMC says that the acquisition of MQSoftware will allow IT shops to cut their costs since they won't be measuring and monitoring their various systems in a piecemeal fashion and will make managing all these queued applications easier and more resilient.

MQSoftware is privately held and does not provide revenue figures, but says that it has over 1,000 customers in banking, insurance, healthcare, retail, manufacturing, telecommunications, and government industries. (And yes, I am saying that government is an industry).

Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed.

BMC just reported its first quarter of fiscal 2010 financial results last week and is hoping that its partnership with Cisco Systems on the "California" Unified Computing System blade servers will start bringing in the bucks soon, and MQSoftware is presumably going to help too, if not in the short run, then in the long run (that's always the plan).

BMC has over $1.3bn in cash and equivalents and $1.7bn in deferred revenues, and it needs to eat or be eaten. And even if it does spend down its cash to acquire lots of companies to build up its hold on systems management, that will make the company an even more attractive takeover target for some company with big money bags. As we go to press, BMC has a market capitalization of $6.35bn and is too expensive for all but a handful of players. It would be interesting to see EMC make a play for BMC, but Oracle or IBM could do it too. Hewlett-Packard could as well. ®

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