On November 29, 2016, Rogue Wave announced their acquisition of Akana (ex-SOA Software) for an undisclosed amount. With this acquisition, Rogue Wave has entered the API Management market.
API Management is a key enabler of Digital Transformation and has become the focus of attention by companies looking to take advantage of its benefits. A lot of market consolidation has taken place in the last 18 months as large and renowned software vendors have acquired API Management solutions, such as Google acquiring Apigee, RedHat acquiring 3scale, TIBCO acquiring Mashery. So, why would Rogue Wave, a small company known for its developer productivity tooling, acquire a SOA governance and API management company?
To better understand this acquisition, let’s review Rogue Wave’s background and acquisition history.
Rogue Wave, a portfolio company of Audax Group, is a small privately-held software company founded in 1989 that has between 140 and 250 employees (pre-Akana acquisition). Rogue Wave focus has always been in improving developer productivity to shorten development cycle times by offering tools for different programming languages. As a C++ developer, back in the mid 90’s, I remember using Rogue Wave Tools, a C++ specialized library, to avoid having to write doubly-linked List and Set functions myself. With the advent of multi-core processors, Rogue Wave got into developer tooling for multi-core platforms and HPC (Highly Parallel Computing) by acquiring three HPC tools companies: Visual Numerics on May 2009, TotalView on January 2010, and Acumem on October 2010. Following their developer’s productivity focus, in May 2012, Rogue Wave bought ILOG Visualization C++, a cross-platform environment for rapid development of highly visual, massively distributed applications, from IBM. In August 2013, they acquired OpenLogic, a provider of cloud-based open source software management solutions, support, and consulting. Although their acquisition of OpenLogic was a departure of their developer tooling focus, it gave them expertise in open source software. They augmented their developer tooling offerings in January 2014 by acquiring Klocwork, which offered tools that analyzed source code on-the-fly, simplified peer code reviews, and extended the life of complex software. They expanded from developer tooling to development platforms through their acquisition of Zend in October 2015, an end-to-end PHP web and mobile application development and deployment platform for PHP, which they secured via a loan from Franklin Square Capital Partners. And with their purchase of Akana, Rogue Wave has now jumped into the API Management field.
Rogue Wave’s pedigree and strength is in its large set of developer tools for programming languages, e.g. C, C++, C#, Java, and open source. It’s clear Rogue Wave started the effort to horizontally scale 2 years ago when they acquired a PHP application development platform and are continuing to do so by their latest acquisition, an API Management solution. Only time will tell if their jump into API Management will work. There is always a danger when an acquiring company doesn’t have the expertise or focus of the acquired company. For example, Intel, whose expertise and focus had been chip manufacturing, attempted to shift focus to software by acquiring Mashery, an API management company, back in 2013. Intel kept Mashery for about 2.5 years before selling it to TIBCO. It was a marriage that didn’t work out and Intel decided to go back to doing what they were best at. An interesting fact is that Intel Capital, the venture capital arm of Intel, is an investor of Rogue Wave.
So, if you’re a Rogue Wave customer, what does this acquisition mean to you?
From the perspective of the hard-core C, C++, C#, or Java developer that uses Rogue Wave tools to make you more productive, this acquisition does not impact you much. At most, it may indirectly impact you if you are a member of a microservice team developing a backend API implementation and need to follow the interface specification defined by the enterprise API. Another way that you may be impacted is that if there’s a need to expose some functionality of your existing processes to other developers (internal or external to your organization), you may be asked to create REST or SOAP interfaces to the processes you maintain so that APIs can be created for other people to re-use.
If you are a PHP developer using Rogue Wave tools, specifically the Zend product line, your PHP-based microservices can now be exposed and managed using Akana API Management solution. In addition, the Zend platform can be used as a microservices development platform and in turn, these microservices APIs can be managed by Akana.
One concern that I would have as a Rogue Wave customer is that Akana was dropped from the IBM PartnerWorld program back in June 2015 due to conflicting interests. Rogue Wave is currently an IBM partner and now that Akana is part of Rogue Wave, I’m not sure how Akana’s past behavior and the fact that IBM had to sever their partner relationship with them will affect Rogue Wave relationship with IBM. Again, only time will tell on this one.
If you’re an Akana customer, what does this acquisition mean to you?
I think Akana’s customers are the ones that will benefit the most out of this acquisition. Now, as Rogue Wave customers, they have access to a rich PHP development platform that they can use for API and/or microservice implementations. Before this acquisition, Akana provided no capabilities for the creation, execution, administration and monitoring of microservices. You could manually write Java, BPEL using their virtual services, and lately they had introduced FreeMarker-based orchestrations, but these were a far cry from the level of microservice create and run capabilities comparable to the ones offered by other API Management vendors in the market. The synergy between the Zend product line and Akana gives Rogue Wave the opportunity to integrate these two as a complete API Management solution. The success of this union will be determined on how well Rogue Wave executes this integration.
Lastly, like I have said in some of my past posts about the acquisitions of other API management companies, this type of event always introduces risk and uncertainty to what the future of the acquired company will look like in the short and long term. This is not being an alarmist but a realist. In past lives, I have been a part of both the acquired company as well the acquirer, so I have been on both sides and witnessed its effects. Personnel and organizational changes, departure of key executives, employee attrition, deprecation of some of the acquired software components, product roadmap changes, and integration of acquired and acquirer software components are some of the effects that are going to happen as Rogue Wave brings Akana into the fold. All these translate into a slowdown in product development and evolution that will affect customers. So, if you’re an existing or prospective Akana customer or Rogue Wave customer and need an API Management solution, I invite you to consider IBM API Connect, the #1 Leader in API Management by the latest Forrester Wave™: API Management Solutions, Q4 2016. Here are some differences between Akana and IBM API Connect:
|API Management capability|| IBM API Connect
|API Gateway available in many form factors||Cloud (PaaS), virtual, Docker, physical||Software, virtual|
|Browser-based visual side-by-side message mapping||Yes||no|
|Ability to create REST and SOAP APIs from scratch||Yes||Only REST|
|Multi-API Rest Description Language support||Yes1||Yes|
|API Rest Description Language used internally by tooling||Open API||Open API|
|End-to-end Node.js support for microservices||Yes||no|
|Available on IBM Bluemix||Yes||no|
|Member of OPEN API Initiative||Yes||no|
1 – Via plug-in to SmartBear Ready!API
As you can see, IBM API Connect already has some key advantages over Akana. So, you don’t need to wait until Rogue Wave and Akana fully merge their products when you already have an enterprise, market-proven, feature-rich and ready-to-use API Management offering in IBM API Connect. To obtain a free evaluation copy of IBM API Connect, please refer to http://www-03.ibm.com/software/products/en/api-connect.