IBM's mega buying spree

IBM opened its wallet last week and acquired Webify Solutions, a privately held start-up that specialises in industry-specific software and services for SOA development and deployment. A day later, the shopaholic whipped out the gold card, agreeing to acquire industrial asset and service management company MRO Software for a cool $US740 million in cash.

Both deals indicate how SOA was changing the way vendors and customers thought about software and services, general manager of IBM's Tivoli systems management software business, Al Zollar, said.

MRO's operations will become a business unit of Tivoli, while Webify's technology will be integrated into the IBM Software Group under the WebSphere middleware brand.

The acquisitions will help IBM provide vertical SOA solutions for customers, but the MRO deal goes beyond SOA. IBM is making a push toward asset and portfolio management to provide customers with a clear, top-down view of the connection between IT spending and business outcomes.

"In a recent IBM study, 40 per cent of CEOs indicated that asset utilisation would be a key focus in strengthening financial performance," Zollar said.

Archrival HP is taking a similar view. Last December, it acquired IT asset and service management software vendor Peregrine, a company that had enjoyed a close relationship with IBM, for $US425 million - and has begun to incorporate the technology into its OpenView products. Just last week, HP bought Mercury Interactive, a leader in governance, application monitoring, portfolio management, and software testing.

The MRO acquisition acknowledges that the lines between the two kinds of asset management - technology in terms of software and servers and industrial such as vehicles and buildings - are converging. As more companies outfit industrial assets with IT intelligence such as remote sensors or radio frequency identification (RFID) tags, customers need to carry out incident management on IT-enabled industrial assets just as they already do with IT systems.

Whereas IBM's Tivoli software helps companies manage IT systems, MRO's Maximo asset management software enables users to manage and track physical, financial, operational and IT assets.

"It's a very nice marriage of capabilities," MRO president and CEO, Chip Drapeau, said.

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