Of Acquisitions And Integration

The IT world has gone acquisition bonkers. Dell is paying as much for EMC as any football club would do to secure the combined services of Messi and Ronaldo. Well almost…

Meantime, a couple of companies I keep tabs on have also been in acquisition mode, albeit on a lesser, but still significant, scale, as the need to reinvent to stay in  – and play – the game is more critical than ever. The two companies I am speaking of are TIBCO and SolarWinds and I caught up with both of them last week in that tourist theme park known as London.

TIBCO is on a world tour – we didn’t get the T-shirt however – and clearly it was a sell-out; barely standing room in the (large) conference room of the Landmark Hotel. Interesting to see that t’Interweb, while initially reducing physical presence at live events, seems to be a less significant distractor these days. Good job, as it’s just taken me over two weeks to get a BT broadband line activated, and that with the help of the press office and the “Exec Level Complaints Dept”  (than you Lisa) – otherwise I would be still waiting until the middle of next week, or next year or… Meantime, BT has now issued four accounts on my behalf and I have three BT HomeHubs already. I digress…

Cloud integration is a key driver for TIBCO right now as evidenced by two releases last week – the snappily named TIBCO BusinessWorks Container Edition and the more direct TIBCO Cloud Integration (we likes “does what it says on the tin” descriptions my precious). The former is designed to get companies scaling the heights of the cloud as rapidly as possible, while the second is all about APIs – an IPaaS, AKA, integration Platform-as-a-Service, kind of a Platform as a Platform as a Service, if you like.  Both are worthy missions from a company whose origins were on the trading floors of the world, where clouds were not even visible. And interesting how the old and new come together – APIs and iPaaS (only one letter different between the two, note, maybe we should introduce an IT version of Countdown, along the lines of the 8/10 Cats variant?) – I still remember when APIs “were the future”. Mind, so was 8-bit computing once…

Integration was also a key theme in my conversation with SolarWind’s head of security, Mav Turner, who has featured in a previous CW article of mine on compliance. Switching to that subject briefly, I made the point to the TIBCO board that accelerating DevOps and Integration might lead to some compliance issues as dev gets too far ahead of compliance box-ticking? CTO Matt Quinn begged to differ, but Mav of SolarWind was in my camp. Obviously both vendors have vested interests (if neither tour vests nor T-shirts in TIBCOs case) but compliance really is a fundamental pain in the (word deleted here – Ed) process of implementing and delivering new services and applications these days. With Mav, we talked about how this is an even more spectacular problem when dealing with government departments – something I know only too well from chatting with MK Council earlier this year.

SolarWinds’ focus was actually a combination of the two key themes here, acquisition and integration, in that they are currently bringing all their acquisitions together into a common interface and style (whatever happened to the days when you would test a “single” Cisco product and encounter three different management interfaces?)  – we even used the dreaded phrase “single pane of glass management”. Oh how we laughed… On a more serious note – and this applies to every vendor that has done well enough to make a name for itself in one sphere, but moves forward into new worlds – Mav made the point that many people’s association with SolarWinds is simply Network Management, or even more simply, SNMP.  People, the company HAS moved on…

This need for continual reinvention in the IT vendor world is frankly frustrating and driven largely by the analyst groups and stock exchanges in equal measure. TIBCO CEO, Murray Rode talked about how, in some ways, escaping the clutches of public ownership and moving back into private alleviates many of these pressures and allows a vendor to focus on all the important elements – bettering the product for the right reasons, customer focus etc – and he is absolutely right.  Why do we have to put up with the pressures that, for example, force the renaming Mainframe Time-Sharing to Outsourcing, then Application Service Provision, then Outsourcing again and now Cloud? Just adds to marketing costs and confusion.

Talking of confusion – so what exactly is Dell boy going to do with VMware? Odds-on favourite is to offload it but who would be the buyer? Please, not HP, surely… (whichever bit of HP that might be) and could Brocade afford it? Microsoft, to clean up on the hypervisors? IBM as a slightly left-field proposition? Mega-management buy-out? As ever, it’s time to watch this space…

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