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EMC and Acxiom Ink Grid Computing Deal

EMC is acquiring Acxiom's proprietary grid-computing middleware for $30 million and will use it to expand the capabilities of its own management software.

EMC is acquiring Acxiom's grid-computing software for $30 million and will combine it with its own products for storage, information, and resource management. EMC and Acxiom, which will retain rights to continue using the software under the deal announced Thursday, also will jointly develop grid-based information and data analysis packages for Acxiom customers.

The partnership could provide a boost to the adoption of grid computing.

Acxiom has been developing the grid computing middleware since 2001 to help it manage the thousands of servers that power the company's information management and data analysis services. The company maintains huge databases of consumer information that it sells to banks, credit rating services, and other business customers.

The proprietary technology, which Acxiom calls the Customer Information Infrastructure, allows servers to be organized into groups dedicated to specific jobs or used as a shared resource for multiple jobs. The grid technology currently supports the data integration, management, and analysis services Acxiom provides to some 60 corporate customers, says Rich Howe, Acxiom's chief marketing officer and chief strategist.

The grid middleware includes grid system, data, and workflow management tools, a workload scheduler, and monitoring and control systems, says Ian Baird, EMC's chief technology officer for grid and utility computing. "This is the best, most complete, and most broadly integrated grid technology that we've seen anywhere," he says.

Acxiom currently uses the grid system to provide its information management and data analysis services on a hosted basis. Under a development project expected to take two years, EMC and Acxiom will "productize" the grid software so that Acxiom customers can deploy it, combined with EMC software and Acxiom's data integration and analysis applications, within their own data centers.

EMC, meanwhile, will use the grid technology to advance the capabilities of its own products which it will offer to customers for such applications as risk analysis, manufacturing and product design, and drug development – applications generally outside of Acxiom's target markets, Baird says. He declined to provide details for competitive reasons, but hinted the grid technology could be used with EMC's virtualization and content management software, as well as the infrastructure, application, and business services management software EMC acquired when it bought Smarts Inc. in late 2004 for $260 million. Baird also declined to disclose the potential value of the sales of such combined products.

In the deal EMC acquires all the Acxiom grid software source code and intellectual property, but Acxiom retains rights to continuing using the technology. The move provides Acxiom with a way to recoup its development investment.

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