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AmberPoint, for me, is like meeting old friends. This son of Forte Software was founded in 2001 with significant venture backing from Norwest and Sutter Hill. The company’s executive board read like a who’s who of Forte Software senior management before the takeover by Sun Microsystems in 1999. The 2 key founders are:
- John Hubinger, President and Chief Executive Officer, who was vice president of Sales at Forte Software.
- Paul Butterworth, Chief Technical Officer, who was a founder of Forte Software, holding the post of chief architect and senior vice president of Engineering and Customer Services.
EMEA is run by another ex-Forte man, Willie Kirkpatrick. So as an ex-Forte man myself I felt at home when I met two of my old colleagues—Steve Pope, VP Sales for Northern Europe and David Bell, EMEA Sales, for a briefing on the product set.
This Forte Software background means that the development team and the field has a great deal of experience at pioneering new technologies for distributed systems, databases, development tools and management frameworks. AmberPoint are now applying that experience to the open standards of Service Oriented Architecture (SOA) to deliver solutions for making services-based systems production-ready, business-ready and easily manageable. Their claim is that they have become the industry-leading provider of SOA visibility, management and security software.
The company is headquartered in Oakland (another Forte association). They currently have around 150 staff around the world. They have recently opened an off-shore set-up in Poonai, India. They sell both direct and through a reseller channel. They have raised additional venture capital funding from Motorola Ventures and in April this year an additional $9m dollars from SAP Ventures.
Back in 2001, AmberPoint, like many organisations, thought that web services would dominate the world and they saw the need to provide what Steve Pope described to me as “runtime plumbing”. The initial product was developed as a “web services manager” to handle highly distributed complex heterogeneous services. Their focus was on the non-functional logic contained in program/services. The products were developed to be multi-platform using a single code line that allowed native integration into .NET and Java.
SOA Management System is a policy-based solution for controlling the complex infrastructures that exist within any service-enabled architecture. It takes as its core architectural concept the idea of policy as a set of declarative statements that mirror programmatic code, but which are non-procedural in nature—thus creating more of an object type or class structure, which can then be applied by the use of agents with the service network.
SOA Validation System provides a testing/simulation environment for analysing the change of services or policy into a production environment. QA and Operations teams can automatically verify the performance and functionality of a changed service against applications that consume it and the services on which it is dependent. AmberPoint checks the potential impact of policy changes on services-based systems to ensure that the SOA system performs and functions as expected when taken into production.
AmberPoint Express is a cost-effective means for Web service developers to incrementally measure, debug and fine-tune the performance and functionality of their Web services. Versions of AmberPoint Express are available for both Java and the Microsoft .NET Framework. Express is seamlessly integrated with the developer’s experience. It automatically configures the management system for each Web service completed by the developer and it requires no coding changes to the Web services themselves. What’s more, it is free!
One of my strong beliefs is that to succeed in the software market there is a need to build a strong set of partnerships. Well, AmberPoint have really taken this to heart and basically tied up nearly all of the leading platform vendors into some sort of relationship:
- BEA—in April this year they announced a strategic reseller agreement with AmberPoint, whereby BEA will resell AmberPoint’s SOA Management System under the company’s AquaLogic product family.
- IBM—there is a worldwide reseller agreement with IBM. Under the terms of the agreement, IBM Global Services offer AmberPoint’s management solutions as part of its SOA Management Practice.
- Microsoft—this relationship goes back to the very beginning of AmberPoint and resulted in AmberPoint Express being developed and being bundled with Visual Studio. AmberPoint is a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner. The most recent relationship is the announcement of AmberPoint being part of the Microsoft Business Process Alliance, a select group of ISV partners focusing on creating solutions that further enhance business process management (BPM) enablement on the Microsoft platform.
- SAP—A Development Cooperation Agreement with SAP AG was announced in September 2006. This has resulted in integration between AmberPoint’s SOA management solutions and SAP NetWeaver.
- TIBCO—They have an OEM agreement with AmberPoint that allows TIBCO to sell AmberPoint’s SOA solution under the TIBCO ActiveMatrix Policy Manager badge.
Other partnerships include Software AG, Systinet, Iona and iWay. As AmberPoint do not implement their own proprietary security but rather make use of existing products, then there are relationships with all the major Identity and Security vendors including CA, HP, IBM, Sun and Oracle Oblix. This integration is achieved through bidirectional adapters.
Customer base and problem solving
AmberPoint have around 150 customers worldwide. The largest sectors are Financial Services, Government and Telecoms. Customers include: Reuters, The Driving Standards Agency, TransCanada, Motorola, BT and Best Buy.
Steve Pope said that “We are working with customers who are making a major bet of SOA”. Pope talked about Shell’s Energy Trading arm which had grown by acquisition and saw SOA as the way of sorting out the mess of systems. Pope’s view was that anyone moving to SOA needs get architectural rigour, particularly around the non-functional logic, and governance is therefore critical. “It really revolves around the question—how does an organisation measure performance? And perhaps, more fundamental, what does performance mean?”
I asked Bell and Pope how AmberPoint really views SOA. Their comment was that, in their view, anything could be considered to be a service from the simple Print service and Open File to a complete SAP RFC or BAPI or even a whole mainframe system. All of these can be treated as a service. I find this most refreshing—no bigotry but a sensible view as to what can make a service.