Different Measures of Success

Excellence Awards honorees often have been the object of merger and acquisition activity.

Theres nothing more credible than the real-world validation of past eWEEK Excellence Awards winners in the marketplace of mergers and acquisitions. When we look back at the record of our past selections for Excellence honors, we find a rewarding list of choices that have earned the kind of recognition measured in companies assimilated, not just in trophies presented.

/zimages/2/28571.gifClick here for the winners of the 5th annual Excellence Awards.

At the first Excellence presentation in February 2001, we found that several of our honorees had already been acquired in the time since their award-winning offerings had been launched. SiteSmith Inc., whose Operations Platform took the trophy for Application Hosting Management, was snapped up for $1.36 billion by Metromedia Fiber Network Inc. before the award ceremony took place, giving that dark-fiber capacity provider a more complete capability to serve as an outsourced infrastructure manager.

Metromedia was caught up in the telecommunications capacity glut of the first few years of this new century, but it emerged from Chapter 11 reorganization in September 2003 under the name of AboveNet Inc. Last October, that companys Open Optics Initiative offered lit fiber links to enterprise sites in several major markets, undercutting the local-loop costs of traditional carriers.

Another acquired honoree from the first Excellence winners list was Bluestone Software Inc., recipient of the eCommerce Infrastructure award for its Total eServer middleware. The company was promptly bought for $470 million by Hewlett-Packard Co., which completed that acquisition in early 2001 and renamed the unit HP Middleware.

That HP Middleware unit disappeared about one year later, when HP shut it down after rumors of the units possible sale to Oracle Corp. It was in that same mid-2002 time frame that Oracle Chairman and CEO Larry Ellison said at Oracle World, in Copenhagen, Denmark, that hed pursue "very small acquisitions in a technology niche. ... You wont see us buy large businesses." (Who was that masked man writing that $10 billion check for PeopleSoft Inc. three years later?)

In a further ironic epilogue, HP announced last November a middleware partnership with open-source developer JBoss Inc.—challenging the IBM/Apache axis. HPs professional services cadre of 300 trained consultants now focuses on a combination of Linux, JBoss and the MySQL database.

Hooking custom applications together with IT foundations using versatile application servers was (and still is) a good idea. The standards-based integration strategy of open-source middleware looks to become the mainstream approach.

Also noteworthy on the first Excellence list was Great Plains Software Inc.s eEnterprise 6.0. Microsoft Corp. spent $1.1 billion to absorb Great Plains—paying more than three times its targets annual revenues and 60 times its earnings—but Microsoft got the stage that it needed to demonstrate the potential of its .Net platform as an environment for a next-generation, service-oriented applications architecture.

The annals of our first Excellence festivities hold more stories. Theres WebGain Inc., whose trophy winner, WebGain Studio, went to TogetherSoft Corp. before that company was itself acquired by Borland Software Corp. in 2002. Theres Rational Software Corp., winner for its Rational Suite; that company became part of IBM in February 2003.

Then theres WebTrends Corp., winner for System Monitoring and Support, which was bought by NetIQ Corp. for $1 billion in stock a month after the awards were presented. WebTrends is being spun off this month to Francisco Partners, of Menlo Park, Calif., for $94 million in real money to continue doing real Web analytics work for real companies including the Volvo Construction Equipment unit of AB Volvo, Tektronix Inc. and H&R Block Inc.

The paths of Excellence are often unpredictable—sometimes even bumpy—but they usually lead, it appears, in promising directions.

Technology Editor Peter Coffee can be reached at peter_coffee@ziffdavis.com.