Acquisitions mania heats up in the identity management world

* Key vendors see identity management as central to their future strategies

Last week, I discussed how applications have become the "buzz du jour" across many fronts, from application networking to convergence to service-oriented architectures. Twice again in the past few weeks, we've seen how application technologies are continuing to shape consolidation among vendors, particularly in one vital area: identity management.

Identity is central to many different aspects of IT, from regulatory compliance to resource provisioning and configuration. It is, however, the identity-enablement of enterprise and Web applications in particular that drove the acquisition of the leading players in that segment over the course of the last two years.

Last month, only one day after Citrix announced its acquisition of application security vendor Teros, and on the same day that IBM announced it bought Collation for application discovery and mapping, Oracle extended its investment in identity with the purchase of Thor Technologies and OctetString. Thor is one of the strongest of the remaining independent identity provisioning players and OctetString is a leading vendor of virtual directory technology that broadens the scope of information sources that can be integrated into identity management systems.

Oracle had already acquired provisioning assets with its purchase of Oblix earlier this year, but with Thor and its well-respected Xellerate suite of highly flexible provisioning tools and software, the Oracle provisioning portfolio is now one of the most complete.

OctetString brings a very different asset, but one that Enterprise Management Associates has long expected to be brought into the Oracle fold: the ability to integrate database information as an identity resource.

Many identity deployments are centered on X.500-based LDAP directory architectures - yet it is the enterprise database that often holds the most relevant personal information that should also be the most directly leveraged resource in managing identity. Virtual directory technology exposes this database information in a way that makes it consumable in directory-centric deployments, which makes database information far more accessible in identity management - hence the Oracle interest. Together with Oblix and Oracle's own identity and application management assets, the new portfolio gives Oracle very strong positioning in deploying enterprise application architectures with what must now be considered an industry-leading identity management portfolio.

More recently still, identity was once again at center stage just last week, with HP's announcement of its acquisition of identity federation vendor Trustgenix. This announcement was hardly a surprise, as HP has been rebadging Trustgenix technology as its Select Federation offering for exactly one year. It does mean, however, that HP now owns a complete identity management portfolio outright.

Observers have seen HP's software unit quietly accumulate a very interesting and provocative collection of application assets over the last few years, but have wondered just what kind of a role the company would position itself for in this space. Consider this: the networking of application technology has become a central focus of current information delivery trends - trends that vendors from Cisco to Citrix and a host of others have identified as top strategic priorities. Consider also, then, that HP's OpenView family commands the lion's share of the enterprise network infrastructure management market, and the rationale behind the acquisition of companies such as Talking Blocks, which gave rise to HP's SOA Manager offering, as well as its building of an identity management portfolio, becomes more clear.

The various manifestations of application integration are increasingly defining key aspects of the network itself - and it appears that virtually no major player will be left out.

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