Softek buy a key piece of IBM's services strategy

Acquiring Softek will help IBM in its ongoing bid to reinvent its services business, executives said Monday

IBM's plan to acquire data mobility specialist Softek Storage Solutions marks another step along the way in transforming IBM's services business, according to company executives.

IBM announced Monday it will buy privately held Softek for an undisclosed amount and intends to complete the deal by the end of March.

Softek's Transparent Data Migration Facility (TDMF) makes data available while moving it between heterogenous storage systems.

"This is the next step in transforming our services, in making them much more asset-based," said Val Rahmani, general manager of infrastructure management services for IBM Global Services, during a Monday conference call from Softek's headquarters in Vienna, Virginia.

IBM embarked on a major overhaul of how it packages and sells global services last year, to try and make the operation grow more rapidly. While the majority of the vendor's operations are performing well, IBM's services business, though huge in size, has tended to report single-digit or even stagnant growth in recent quarters.

In September, IBM rolled out the first two of a planned range of what it dubbed "service products." The products are standardized, preintegrated services suitable for use by any IBM customer rather than the one-off, customized approach to services that the vendor previously focused on.

One way IBM is speeding up the ongoing transformation of its services operations is through acquisitions.

Rahmani pointed to the company's US$1.3 billion purchase of security vendor Internet Security Systems (ISS), which closed in October, as a first step in this piece of the strategy. With ISS under its belt, IBM gained a major presence in the managed security services market. More and more customers are interested in outsourcing their IT security management to third parties and IBM is building on work ISS has already done on automating security functions so users don't have to activate them manually.

"The next part of that strategy is in the storage space with Softek," she said, with IBM in the future being able to offer a complete data mobility offering. Rahmani wouldn't be drawn on other areas in which it would make sense for IBM to buy in services expertise. "We're always on the lookout for more," she said.

IBM plans to continue to sell Softek's software either as a technology or offer it as a managed service, she said. The combined offering will free up customers from trying to "cobble together" their own data migration software and services. Often, customers reported losing data during their migration efforts, a risk IBM hopes to reduce with the combination of its own and Softek's technologies, according to Steven Murphy, Softek's chief executive officer.

Once IBM's purchase of Softek is complete, Murphy will become vice president of data mobility solutions at IBM, he said. To date, Softek has shipped more than 10,000 licenses of its software and has over 800 companies on maintenance contracts. Murphy expects all of Softek's 143 staff to join IBM.

Founded in April 2000 as a subsidiary of the former Amdahl, Softek became an independent company in April 2004.

IBM pledged to continue Softek's existing partnerships with the likes of Microsoft, Oracle and Symantec.

"I anticipate we'll probably have an even deeper relationship with Oracle and Microsoft than we do today," Murphy said.

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