IBM says its £580m acquisition of Ascential Software will give retailers an IBM Websphere alternative to data integration tools from SAP and Oracle.
The Ascential products offer managed "master repositories" of business information, which can be accessed on demand from back-end supply chain systems. This provides a single view of suppliers and customers, allowing firms to make rapid inventory and pricing adjustments as demand changes.
Ted Friedman, principal analyst at Gartner Research, said, "The deal will broaden IBM's integration offerings, giving Websphere Information Integrator needed data quality functionality in extraction, transformation and loading, and further complementing Websphere's process integration offerings."
Bob Mick, vice-president of emerging technology at analyst ARC Advisory Group, added, "Ascential's strength in high-speed ETL fills a recognised IBM portfolio weakness, making this a good fit. Both firms pledged continued support for competitive products and heterogeneous environments, which should minimise user concerns about long-term support for non-IBM products, such as Oracle database."
Ascential's main competitors are Informatica and Tibco, although SAP's Netweaver and Oracle Application Server offer data integration capabilities for the suppliers' own applications. Microsoft with SQL Server 2005 also offers some data integration.