Why Tibco won’t be bought next

Ranadive, CEO of Tibco, has announced that Tibco board would of course consider offers.

And after the recent news about Business Objects and BEA, such offers may seen inevitable.  Jeff Schenider of MomentumSI for instance argues that we have entered a period of inevitable consolidation.  While I certainly think we are already in an era of big-4 and the rest, that does not necessarily mean that every ‘small’ software company (and remember these are only small in comparison to the giants) must be bought.

The Reuter’s piece covering Ranadive’s statement comments that “Analysts have said suitors for Tibco could include IBM (NYSE: IBM), Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HP), Sun Microsystems (NSDQ: JAVA), and EMC (NYSE: EMC).”

I personally wonder.  On the one hand you could ask why not?  Tibco has excellent top tier customers who use its long standing messaging products for core business processing.  It also has some of the best SOA products in its BusinessWorks portfolio – combining enterprise grade reliability with good tooling.  However, I think you need to look a little deeper about the two acquisitions which sparked this consolidation talk:

BusinessObjects is in what should to be the hot growth area over the coming years – business intelligence – and thus is perfect for the vendors who want to find a new thing to sell to their customer base or a new way to justify their existing product line (by adding a BI layer on top).  Business Objects should have been a target for IBM and Oracle as well as SAP.

BEA was generally believed to be a long term target for Oracle – BEA had after all used the application server wave to capture business from so many of Oracle’s enterprise customers.  Oracle first took quite a while to take application servers seriously and then took quite a while to become competitive.  Buying BEA finishes the job off quickly and gets back ownership of all those straying BEA customers.

With Tibco, there is no obvious buyer (as Oracle was with BEA) nor is there a neat fit into one of the majors (as BusinessObjects was with SAP).  Of the 4 listed by the “Analysts” quoted above, only IBM would make any sense.  And Oracle, except that it is busy trying to eat BEA.  Therefore, I don’t see Tibco being bought except unless it is Skyped (bought for over the odds to avoid somebody else buying it).


SAP buys Business Objects

It was announced yesterday that SAP is acquiring Business Objects for $6.8billion in what is described as a friendly take-over (and leaked out a couple of weeks back as reported here ).

On the product side, the benefits are obvious from SAP perspective – although there will certainly be some integration and overlap issues for SAP to deal with (covered well by Forrester here).  Clearly, it also brings a large number of new customers to SAP – although it will be a long term project to bring them over to other SAP products.

From the vendor perspective, it reduces the choice for ISVs wanting to partner with a Business Intelligence vendor.  This should make Cognos (now the only significant independent BI vendor) in particular happy.  However, the big question is will IBM grab Cognos now to fill its own BI gap before Oracle gets there first.  Of course nothing may happen – Remember the speculation around Informatica and Oracle after Ascential was bought by IBM a couple of years back?

And finally… For the customers of BO, it will take a while for the smoke to clear.  However, SAP paying that amount of money should make BO customers very confident that their software has a strong future.  What it means to users of SAP’s existing BI product is equally obvious:  While it is very likely the products will be supported for a long time, it is equally very likely that they will not be the basis of SAP’s BI strategy going forward.


IBM’s Information on Demand streamroller gains speed with the Princeton Softech acquisition

IBM announced the completion of its acquisition of Princeton Softech – a company which focused on data archiving, classification and discovery software.

All of which sounds quite specialist until it is put into the context of IBM’s Information on Demand (IoD) strategy.  Back in March, Ambuj Hoyal, who heads us IBM’s Information Management division (with responsibility for the Information on Demand strategy) explained:

“… an inflection point occurred in 1996 when there were many techniques to create Web sites or do Web-based business… We are at a similar inflection point in 2006. We have myriads of techniques – metadata management, ETL (extraction, transformation, and loading) tools, data creation tools, Federation tools, cleansing tools, profiling tools. People use these tools to solve the information challenge.”

To translate, IBM see a huge opportunity and are putting serious money into it – this acquisition is the latest of 21 which are part of this strategy (to see the list go here).  The opportunity is to build an information management platform which allows organisations to create, maintain and (most importantly) extract value from the myriad of data sources which flow around the enterprise.  Data cleansing, data distribution, data integration and master data management (among other areas) are each expensive activities but often have clear budget and value associated with them – this even before getting to semi-structured information which is also with the Information on Demand remit.  While there are best of breed solutions to different parts of the puzzle, there aren’t single integrated solutions – which is what IBM hopes to offer.  Interestingly, IBM has yet to move on Business Intelligence vendors – it appears to have correctly realised that the major task is not creating dashboards; it is ensuring that what goes into the dashboards is correct and timely.

Any familar with the area of enterprise data management will realise that the challenges inherent in building and deploying such a platform are formidible.  At a recent briefing IBM gave Lustratus, the whole area of data governance in particular was highlighted:  how do you organise structures and responsibilities to ensure that coherent and consistent data definitions can be used and reused through the enterprise (this should sound very familiar to anybody involved in SOA – just switch the word service for data!).  To figure out how to do this right IBM set up the Data Governance Council back in 2005 with many leading financial services and telecoms companies (among others).

Yet again getting into detail is beyond the scope of a normal blog – but I would recommend anybody with a passing interest in BI (or indeed enterprise architectures) to take a look at IBM’s web-site on Information on Demand. Of course the strategy is not without obvious challenges:  The technology is from many different sources (even if it now all belongs to IBM) and there is a significant amount of complexity associated with solving such a complex problem.  Also, when there isn’t a significant regulatory stick (Basel II for instance), I imagine it could be very hard to sell at a strategic level.  This is because while there are clearly valuable uses of Information on Demand, but there seems to be no common theme around which business momentum can be built.  And finally, its association with the term business intelligence may well go against it – already some analysts are wondering where IBM’s query tools will stack up against Business Objects et al (not a relevant question as BO and others will sit on top of IoD) and in many cases the proposition is operational efficiency or regulatory compliance, not (to my mind at least) classic BI.