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IBM Improves Customer Views in Suite

IBM added another piece to its information management portfolio with the acquisition of Toronto-based DWL, officials announced Tuesday.

They would not comment on the financial details of the purchase, which is subject to U.S. and Canadian regulatory approvals, but did say DWL would keep its offices in Toronto and Atlanta.

The purchase is a natural fit for IBM, which is building out its information management and enterprise data-integration software portfolio and moving critical information away from front office applications and into service-oriented architectures (SOA).

"Organizations recognize the need to put the customer at the center of their business processes and move away from traditional silos of information generated in various locations, or created by multiple customer applications providing different views of the same customer," John Baumstark, DWL president and CEO, said in a statement.

"Customer data integration is a key enabler to achieving customer centricity, and DWL has worked with IBM as a Strategic Business Partner in helping numerous organizations to create consolidated views of their customers."

DWL's product, called DWL Customer, will fall under IBM's master data business solutions unit, which is part of the Armonk, N.Y., software company's information management division.

The unit's goal is to integrate master data objects into repositories where the information can be used by front-office applications. DWL stores customer information in its repository, taking information from structured data in databases and unstructured data like those found in e-mails and documents.

IBM has another master data object repository that will be used in conjunction with the DWL Customer repository, called the WebSphere Product Center.

The product center aggregates information from a customer's product line for use in other applications. That capability, too, comes from an IBM acquisition: in March 2004, the company bought Trigo Technologies, which originally developed the software.

With these two repositories in place, IBM customers can use another WebSphere product to move the information. That's accomplished either through its WebSphere Business Integration middleware on the enterprise application integration (EAI) side of operations, or through its enterprise, transformation and loading (ETL) component, called WebSphere Data Integration Suite.

Also in March, IBM acquired Ascential Software for $1.1 billion to fulfill its ETL needs.

DWL's integration into the IBM stack shouldn't pose much of a problem. Like IBM, DWL is Java-based, so the two technologies are built using the same foundation. And Ascential was a close business partner with DWL long before IBM came into the picture, said Paraic Sweeney, IBM's vice president of information management integration solutions.

Sweeney said the DWL acquisition is a needed and welcome addition to its middleware offerings in this particular WebSphere component.

With Tuesday's acquisition, he said, the information management division now includes the core database systems, the ability to manage structured and unstructured information, and to move it to a variety of different places and cleanse it as it's being moved. He wouldn't comment, however, on what's next for the unit as it continues to flesh out its offerings.

"Relative to the alternative offerings in the marketplace, this is a very complete information management portfolio," Sweeney said. "Obviously, given our track record of continuing to build out the portfolio, we're going to continue to look at what's available, but I wouldn't want to speculate at this stage about where we look."