Monday, July 16, 2007

IBM broadens its data reach for SOA with DataMirror buy

Further banking on SOA as a consolidation strategy accelerator for enterprises, IBM on Monday announced its intention to acquire DataMirror.

The Markham, Ontario-based DataMirror provides real-time data capture and delivery across a broad range of data sources — including IBM's own DB2, Oracle, Sybase and Microsoft SQL Server — and allows altered data from such sources to be fed into the popular IBM Information Server. The goal: real-time integration and delivery of data deltas across a variety of sources to then reach a variety of applications and services.

The approximately $161 million acquisition, if approved, will thereby extend the reach of IBM's Information Server and give businesses faster access to data for making business decisions, responding to market demands, and rapidly identifying new business opportunities. The acquisition continues a fast-paced (for IBM) buying spree, almost as active as Oracle's over the past several years, although IBM tends to buy smaller companies that augment its strategies, rather than buy its way into new businesses wholesale.

Data and access to data is the lifeblood of any agile big businesses. According to IBM, the DataMirror technology captures data changes as soon as they occur and delivers the changes and new data either to other business processes or the enterprise service bus (ESB). This makes it an integral part of an SOA strategy.

IBM Information Server currently processes data from DB2 databases, but what DataMirror brings to the party is its technology works with a wide variety of other databases, sitting on top of the other processes, and can capture the data without slowing the performance of those operations.

So the inclusion of the DataMirror technology into its "Information on Demand portfolio" will allow Big Blue to cast a bigger umbrella over more types of real-time data for distribution and processes-updating capabilities. That means a more comprehensive SOA infrastructure capabilities set that spans data services with transactional and presentation services.

IBM said the acquisition will move their information-on-demand strategy closer to the master data management "holy grail" of providing one view of the customer -- the total and correct view.

This acquisition also therefore further amplifies the vision that management of meta data about data (aka master data management) is the keystone of the future for enterprise software infrastructure vendors. By making data free yet coordinated, IBM can position it's Information Server and IBM's Dynamic Warehousing offerings as the best-of-breed data management environments for gathering, distributing, and also analyzing real-time business activities. The value continues to move up an abstraction from the core RDBs.

As an example of how the real-time capture and delivery can aid business development, DataMirror pointed to a telecom application, in which a client company can detect when customers are running low on pre-purchased minutes, allowing the company to contact the customers in advance about purchasing more time, thereby increasing sales and preventing customers from experiencing a loss of service.

You have to wonder whether IBM will also extend what DataMirror does into open source databases -- from mySQL to Ingres to perhaps even SaaS applications and/or repositories. Such a move could allow IBM to become the all-data-for-all-purposes-oriented leader (more "open" than Microsoft or Oracle) -- while still protecting its DB2 franchise (for now). Being inclusive at the data management level is more important than protecting an installed base, right?

Among the other benefits of the combined platform will be:
  • Dynamic data warehousing
  • Real-time analytics
  • Faster disaster recovery
  • Production and e-business integration
  • Real-time event detection
DataMirror currently has about 2,200 customers, about 60 percent of whom are also IBM customers, as well as 15,000 licenses. The company and its 220 employees will be integrated into IBM's Information and Platform Solutions business unit, and IBM said it intends to retain DataMirror's Toronto-area development center focused on heterogeneous data capture.

The acquisition requires approval from DataMirror's stockholders, as well as regulators, and the deal is expected to close in the late third quarter of this year.