IBM Boosts Network Management with Micromuse Buy

With the acquisition, IBM aims to strengthen its ability to manage converged networks carrying data, voice and video traffic.

IBM on Wednesday racked up another big acquisition in the management software space with its intent to acquire Micromuse Inc. for $865 million, this time bringing to it a much stronger presence among telecommunications carriers and service providers.

With the integration of its Candle Corp. acquisition well underway, giving IBM a much stronger presence in the mainframe management arena, Big Blue turned its attention to beefing up its ability to manage converged networks carrying data, voice and video traffic.

"Micromuse is one of the premier providers of management in Session Initiation Protocol management space. Thats one of their strengths, especially in the telco space," said Bob Madey, vice president of strategy and market management at IBMs Tivoli operation in Austin, Texas.

"Service providers are leading the adoption of voice over IP technology, but it is coming on strong in the enterprise. We need to marry management of SIP servers with core server and application management technology. Those create synergy and we think superior customer value," he added.

/zimages/4/28571.gifIBM forms global alliance with Red Hat, Novell. Click here to read more.

The acquisition also establishes IBM as a strong contender in the network management space once again with the addition of Micromuses flagship NetCool family.

IBM had competed in that space in the 1990s with its NetView product, but IBM allowed it to languish following its Tivoli acquisition, according to Frank Dzubeck, president of Network Communications Architects Inc., a Washington D.C. consulting firm.

"IBM makes a subtle move and theyre now in the network management business again," he said.

"It gives them a bigger and more significant footprint in the network management and monitoring space, which theyve needed for a long time," added Rich Ptak, principal at Ptak, Noel & Associates in Amherst, NH.

"For the kind of model they are using [as a part of IBMs service management initiative] they cant afford to not have a significant amount of data about whats happening in the network," he added.

But that was only part of the motivation for IBM to acquire Micromuse, according to Madey.

"Micromuse provides great assets in the network management space, in the security management space as well as in business service management—i.e. how do I align my IT resources to show what business services we are providing and manage them and set policies according to those business needs?" he said.

Micromuse, based in San Francisco, closed its acquisition in August of security information management provider GuardedNet Inc. in a $16.2 million cash deal. That yielded for Micromuse the rebranded NetCool/NeuSecure suite of real-time security monitoring, incident management, risk mitigation and auditing and regulatory compliance software.

But Dzubeck maintains that Micromuses own portfolio is not "exactly leading edge", and the acquisition is intended to reap a sizable customer base of large service providers.

"Theres a tremendous amount of opportunity for IBM to go into those service providers and upgrade them. You could overlay services on top of this, overlay the potential of change [management] on top of it," he said, noting that IBM is also in the integration services business.

"Its a good customer base, no matter what they said," he added.

Another motivation for IBMs acquisition of MicroMuse is because of its people assets, including CEO Lloyd Carney, who will remain through the transition and report to Tivoli General Manager Al Zollar, Madey said.

"There are great people assets here at MicroMuse. Theyve done innovative things in network management, in their relationships with customers and the channels," he said.

More specifically, IBM acquired important expertise in the networking arena, which the company had "jettisoned" years ago, according to Dzubeck.

"There was a strategic advantage in having a developer pool in the networking environment," he said.

IBM and Micromuse have overlapping products in the network management and business service management arenas, but Madey downplayed the extent of the overlap.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read about IBMs foray into services-oriented management.

"When two companies of this size get together, youre going to have some technology overlap. But in this case its really very minimal," he said.

IBM will put a roadmap for product integration together following the close of the acquisition.

There are no plans to lay off any of the 650 employees IBM will acquire with Micromuse when the deal closes some time in the first quarter of next year.

The acquisitive IBM to date has bought 10 software companies in 2005. The largest, Astential Software at $1.1 billion, yielded IBM data integration software for its information management software effort.

The Micromuse acquisition will mark the largest acquisition in the management space since IBM acquired the privately held Candle Corp. in 2004, according to an IBM spokesman.

/zimages/4/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.