As the old saw goes, dog bites man isn't a news story, but man bites dog is. This is a man bites dog story.We've been talking a lot about acquisitions lately, what with Netegrity's buyout of Business Layers, Sun's acquisition of Waveset and the less recent move by IBM-Tivoli to grab Access360 and Metamerge. In each case, a company with a strong Web services presence added an electronic provisioning vendor to its stable. That would be the dog bites man scenario.This week though, "man" (e-provisioning company) bit dog (Web services management vendor) when Oblix acquired Confluent Software.Oblix was, in fact, one of the first (if not the first) in the e-provisioning space. It certainly objected, some five years ago, when I awarded that title to Business Layers (in a "Lead Story" article for Novell which, unfortunately, no longer appears to be available). Oblix, though, moved beyond e-provisioning as that space became more crowded. Its NetPoint and IDLink products - while certainly effective in providing the engine for provisioning - are used alongside products from its partners to handle single sign-on, self-service password reset, federation, and other authentication and authorization projects.Still, when you have to rely on other, independent companies to provide part of your solution offering there's always the chance that the partner might disappear into the maw of a huge corporation at any time - just ask the folks who partnered with Metamerge before IBM swooped down on it. Much better to have complete control over all aspects of the project - or at least as much as you can safely manage.Confluent is the brainchild of three refugees from HP's e-Speak program, which was arguably the first major pure "Web services" division of a major technology company that early on realized that the burgeoning Web services business badly needed management applications.\u00a0 But like all good ideas, a number of people stumbled across the need for Web services management (WSM) at about the same time making for a somewhat crowded field in an area that many, even in the technology community, didn't understand. As my Network World colleague Jim Kobielus wrote (https:\/\/www.nwfusion.com\/columnists\/2003\/0929kobielus.html): "...today's WSM market is overcrowded and due for a serious shakeout."Oblix was one of Confluent's technology partners and obviously saw that the time was right to add WSM to its core identity management products and services - Web services rely on identity management, and a fast growing stable of Web services need good management. The keyword, of course, is "management" and that's where Oblix shines. I might not always understand what Oblix is doing, and CEO Gordon Eubanks may not always be able to explain it rationally. But it's a sure bet that whatever Oblix is doing there'll be a strong management component.This may, though, blur the distinction between WSM and identity management (not necessarily a bad thing), so if you aren't already paying attention to the Web services arena this might be a good time to sign up for the Web Applications newsletter. Oblix' name (and others you know) may be popping up there more regularly.