IBM, Microsoft Take Acquisition Route to Fill Needs

Opinion: IBM's acquisition of Ascential fits well in its plans to bolster data integration, while Microsoft's Groove purchase may give companies a reason to go to the next version of Office.

IBM on Monday acquired Ascential Software for $1.1 billion to bolster its tools for integrating enterprise data, which can then be analyzed, categorized and serve as a platform for new business applications. Last week, Microsoft bought Groove Networks, which allows broader dispersion of data in peer-to-peer networks, creating something of a Napster version of the corporate workplace.

Aside from both companies being from Massachusetts (Ascential from Westboro and Groove from Beverly)—which makes one wonder if every company in the Bay State along with Gillette, John Hancock and Fleet Bank will eventually become subsumed into some corporate entity outside the bounds of New England—the work of the two high-tech acquisitions fits the needs of the acquirers.

IBM (which has also acquired a couple of other Massachusetts-based companies: Rational Software and Lotus) wants to create the technology platform for companies to build on what they already have in place.

Companies tend to have lots of databases that dont talk to one another, word documents that arent stored or categorized in any one place, and departments that are as distinct as separate countries speaking incompatible languages. Does your human resources department connect to your purchasing department? I doubt it. IBM wants to provide the tools to make those connections and then allow other high-tech vendors to build applications on top of that platform.

Ascential provides a, well, essential tool to create that integration. Led by former Informix CEO Peter Gyenes (which was also acquired by IBM), the company provides the integration tools that youd never use if you were not a technologist. You would use the products that result from the tools. The acquisition fits well into the IBM middleware portfolio.

Groove is another story. Microsoft needed a reason for technology and business managers to move up to the next version of Microsoft Office. Groove may provide those capabilities, but several questions remain.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read why the Microsoft-Groove deal makes sense to David Coursey.

Will Microsoft delay its next version of Office to fit in those peer-to-peer capabilities? Does the business space want a product that promises a broad, easy way to create dispersed applications where workgroups can be built on the fly? Or do security and regulatory requirements that call for tight controls where audited results and record keeping are now essential argue against technologies such as Groove?

An affirmative answer to the first question may be overridden by a yes to the second.

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