IBM has acquired DataPower, who develop specialised hardware for speeding up and securing XML network traffic. The company, which is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, sells appliances designed for handling XML-formatted data. When traffic is received that might otherwise overburden traditional hardware servers, it is offloaded to these appliances for better performance.

IBM said it intends to offer a line of service-oriented architecture (SOA) appliances based on the DataPower products. SOAs are modular systems that rely on standards -- notably Web services and XML -- to be more flexible and cost-effective.

The move to acquire 6-year-old DataPower follows Intel's purchase this year of Sarvega, another XML appliance vendor. In June, IBM partner Cisco stepped into the same market with the introduction of its Application-Oriented Networking (AON) product line.