Object-Oriented Database Field Shrinks Again

The merger of object-oriented database companies Versant and Poet Holdings is worth $26 million.

In a deal worth $26 million, object-oriented database companies Versant Corp. and Poet Holdings Inc. are merging, Versant officials announced on Monday.

Versant will swap 1.4 shares of Versant Common Stock for each Poet share. The Versant stock that will be given to Poet shareholders represents about 45 percent of outstanding shares. The move was unanimously approved by both companies boards of directors but is subject to approval from the Securities and Exchange Commission and from shareholders.

Such a merger is unsurprising in what International Data Corp. analyst Carl Olofson has deemed a saturated market for object-oriented databases. The market consists of consumers of very complex data, such as media content and scientific and technical applications.

Consolidation has been rife in the market recently, with Progress Software Corp. purchasing Excelon Corp. last fall and Pervasive Software Inc. buying Data Junction Corp. in August.

This latest merger between Versant and Poet is a synergistic one in comparison to deals Versant explored with, among other companies, Pervasive, according to Manish Chandra, Versants vice president of marketing. "This is much more what we believe to be a synergistic merger, which preserves the focus of both companies," he said in an interview with eWEEK. "Our focus has been object-oriented databases. Weve brought this to the real-time enterprise. Poet has done the same thing.

"It makes a lot of sense from a product and go-to market perspective. The merger will make us a stronger, bigger company, with a better cash position, and a better shot at becoming quickly profitable. And geographically, Poet is in Europe. Were in the United States. So the merger gives us a strong global presence," said Chandra, in Fremont, Calif.

In a statement, Versant officials said the two companies will work on software that delivers storage, integration, analysis and the ability to act on real-time data. Poets object database, Fast Objects, is used in embedded applications. Versants object database, VDS, in used in high-performance, large-scale, real-time applications. The merged technologies will be designed to manage real-time, XML, and other hierarchical and navigational data, according to officials.

"On the product side, theres tremendous synergies as well," Chandra said. "Versant has been focused on high-performance, real-time enterprises. Poet has been strong in the embedded market. When you put the two companies together, we have a product line capable of expanding the gamut from small embedded applications, say in a remote control, to high-performance real-time applications such as fraud management, where with every phone call you make, every credit card call is getting stored inside Versant, and rules-based technology comes and looks for signs of fraud."

The acquisition is important to Versant as it pursues the emerging technology of JDO (Java Data Objects), Chandra said. The JDO API is used to directly store Java domain model instances into databases. JDO allows developers to create a universal way of accessing data and thus the ability to choose databases from major or minor database vendors such as Oracle Corp, Sybase Inc., Versant or Poet, without the need to make code changes.

Building on Versants urge to integrate JDO technology into its own, company officials will announce tomorrow a partnership with Solar Metric Inc., in Austin, Texas, to integrate Poets JDO for Fast Objects with Solar Metrics JDO technology. Versant will also license, resell and OEM Solar Metrics JDO technology, Chandra said.

The combined Poet-Versant will have a five-person board of directors. Three will be nominated by Versant, of Fremont, Calif., and two will be nominated by Poet, which is headquartered in Hamburg, Germany. Poet President and CEO Jochen Witte will become Versants president of European operations and will be a board of directors nominee. Herbert May, now the chairman of Poets board, will also be nominated. Two current Versant directors will also be nominated to the board.

In the statement, Versant President and CEO Nick Ordon said that the merged companies expect to generate some $30 million in revenues for its first fiscal year after the transaction. Versants Chandra said that the merged companies will be EBITDA positive from the get-go, and that full profitability is expected within a short time after the acquisition is complete.

The combined company will have about 175 employees and some $8 million in cash and equivalents. Chandra said that there will be "some impact" vis-à-vis layoffs, but that Versant officials dont expect the layoffs to be in R&D or within the ranks of support staff. Rather, there will be "streamlining" in the areas of sales as well as catalog and real-time software, he said.