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IBM Adds Wireless Traffic Cop Vallent

IBM  said it will acquire privately held wireless network performance monitoring company Vallent, pending regulatory approvals. IBM would not disclose financial details of the deal.

Vallent's software is used to report problems such as dropped calls and traffic bottlenecks, and it helps operators improve service quality, prioritize the correction of outages and identify potential network problems before they affect end-user experience.

IBM plans to integrate Vallent with the Tivoli software unit into which it also integrated Micromuse in February.

When the deal closes in the first quarter of 2007, it will give IBM access to technology for wireless network monitoring that complements the Netcool operational support system (OSS)  it inherited with its acquisition of Micromuse.

IBM expects technology from Vallent to help it offer service providers a way to manage end-to-end services across all manner of networks, including wireline, wireless, IP and converged fixed and mobile infrastructures.

It will also give IBM a way to help its customers migrate from legacy to next-generation networks (NGNs).

Don O'Toole, director of strategy for IBM Tivoli, said that IBM realized that it had to adapt its product portfolio, as fixed and mobile networks start to converge with voice, data and video content.

"The move to NGN is empowering the role of new services and changing customer expectations on what sort of services they're going to get from both wireline and wireless services," he told internetnews.com.

"It changes how we look at the OSS in the service provider space."

He added that being able to provide those services at a high level is "of paramount importance to those service providers."

IBM had spruced up its combined Tivoli-Micromuse offering earlier this year with an improved set of security-management tools.

O'Toole said that Vallent has "patented processes within that software that distinguish them from other alternatives that we had" in the market.

But O'Toole said that IBM was particularly attracted by Vallent's customer base of more than 200 service providers worldwide, as well as extensive business partner networks.

"They have an ecosystem we can leverage, and that's really key to us," he said. "It's one of the important reasons we chose Vallent."

The deal also helps IBM catch up with other software vendors who have been more aggressive in this area, said Richard Ptak, principal analyst with Ptak, Noel & Associates.

"They've needed the capability to manage mobile and wireless technologies," he said. "They could have been better positioned if they moved more quickly."

But while IBM's move puts the emphasis on infrastructure, Ptak noted that HP  has been aggressively addressing the market with a wide variety of content -- as well as infrastructure-based offerings.

"HP could have the jump on IBM in that it has put together a very comprehensive strategy aimed at not just management of the services and infrastructure but also addressing the content that will flow through that infrastructure. HP discusses not just the service management but content as well," he said.

Other competitors include Sun , Oracle  and BEA .

O'Toole noted that he expects the same changes affecting the telecommunications sector to apply to enterprises more broadly.

"The management challenges of service providers will likely be the same sort of challenges that enterprises will face in the future," he said.