It's easy enough for large companies like IBM and Oracle to acquire smaller ones, either because they see a positive product or market synergy, or even simply to spoil it for the competition. The question is: what happens to the acquisitions down the road? In an earlier commentary written against the backdrop of the acquisition of customer data integration vendor DWL by IBM, I had wondered about how well IBM would integrate the DWL product. Integration is not easy, even for integrators themselves. Some 20 months later, my questions seem to be answered, at least in part, in the form of the IBM Information Server.In a nutshell, the IBM Information Server appears to take the Datastage architecture (acquired from Ascential) significantly forward toward a metadata-driven, service-oriented solution for what we might call "integrated data middleware" (data discovery, quality, ETL, vocabulary, etc.), all of which sounds like a good thing.
In the brief time I had with the IBM executive, I did have the opportunity to put to her my standard two-part "Litmus Test for Integrated Solutions": (a) How is the integration more than the sum of the parts (she offered a couple of examples that sounded good), and (b) Is the integration mandatory, i.e. are customers stuck with an expensive, big-bang solution, or is it optional, whereby customers can still pick and choose the individual components (her answer: the latter).
In addition to the above, there also seems to be some measure of integration with IBM WebSphere Product Center (WPC - the Trigo acquisition) and WebSphere Customer Center (WCC - the DWL acquisition), although it's not yet clear to me how far this goes.
Given the number, size and diversity of IBM's acquisitions in the data management space, there is clearly big potential for IBM to provide an unprecedented level of integration to customers… or to squander the opportunity equally gloriously. So far it looks like they are moving in the right direction, but stay tuned for more.At a conference in Miami last week, I sat in on a presentation on the IBM Information Server, and afterward I chatted with an IBM Information Management executive. I'm usually inclined towards a healthy degree of skepticism of marketing presentations (who isn't?), but I must say that I walked away from both the chat and presentation impressed with what I'd seen and heard.