Oracle in talks to buy HP middleware

Oracle is in discussions with Hewlett-Packard to buy its middleware assets, a move that could provide a much-needed boost to...

Oracle is in discussions with Hewlett-Packard to buy its middleware assets, a move that could provide a much-needed boost to Oracle's application server business, industry sources said.

HP disclosed this during a meeting with financial analysts in Boston that it plans to "retire" its middleware assets as part of an effort to achieve profitability in its software group.

HP's middleware includes products it acquired from Bluestone Software in 2000, including a J2EE application server, transaction server, messaging server, and various XML tools. HP's middleware also includes its eSpeak software for building network-based services and its Process Manager business-modelling tool.

Oracle is in talks with HP over a potential acquisition of its entire middleware product line, according to a source at HP familiar with the company's plans. In particular, "they really like the app server", said the source who asked not to be identified.

HP declined to comment, saying its middleware strategy is still being finalised. Oracle officials also declined to comment. "Oracle does not comment on rumours," a spokeswoman wrote in a written response to questions.

The HP source said that the company had, for the past month, been looking for one of its divisions to assume responsibility for developing all or part of its middleware line. No division has stepped forward so far and, in tandem with its internal efforts, HP has also been gauging interest from other vendors.

Faced with slowing database sales, Oracle has identified application servers, along with its suite of business applications, as a potential growth vehicle. Its share of the application server market remains in single digits, however, far behind market leaders BEA Systems and IBM, according to research from Gartner Dataquest.

HP indicated earlier this week that if it does sell off its middleware it would depend on partnerships to meet its customers' middleware needs. Analysts pointed to BEA, and Microsoft as likely close partners. For customers who favour Java, HP could offer BEA's WebLogic application server, while for Microsoft customers it could offer an equivalent .net product, the analysts said.

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