IBM Gets Smarter with Buy


With a mind toward adding real-time analytical capabilities to its software
line, IBM agreed to acquire privately held Alphablox
for an undisclosed sum.


Alphablox makes software that allows
customers to add analytics features that scrutinize information such as
customer buying trends, company inventory and employee performance.


Viewed through a dashboard, the information is then rendered in a series of
custom charts or graphs that are made available over the Internet to users
with network access to help shape business processes.


In keeping with IBM’s goal for enabling an on-demand e-business, developers
will use the Alphablox technology to write business applications that render
multiple views of real-time information from several data sources.


Analytics software is a subsection of the burgeoning business intelligence
market, which experienced a lot of consolidation in 2003 and is worth more
than $7 billion worldwide, according to research from IDC. That figure is
expected to double in two years if current growth trends and the demand for
detailed business information keep up.


IBM spokesperson Lori Bosio said that Alphablox’s operations will be
integrated into its Information Management software business to bolster its
business intelligence platform. This suite allows business partners to
deliver specialized reporting on enterprise resource planning (ERP),
data warehousing and compliance to customers.


Bosio said Alphablox and IBM software will work together to allow managers to
make faster decisions regarding business strategies and plans. For example,
a manager can view current sales figures or be alerted to inventory dips or
demand spikes and adjust to the changes on the fly.


Specifically, Alphablox software will be added to IBM’s Data Warehouse
Edition, WebSphere Business Integration Monitor IBM’s Rational toolset and
WebSphere Portal and IBM Workplace for the desktop.


In addition to helping drive IBM’s on-demand mold, Alphablox software was
attractive to IBM, because it works with products from several vendors,
including Oracle, Microsoft and Sybase. The belief is that several choices
show that a company is not prone to vendor lock-in, which customers dread.


The deal, IBM’s 16th software buy since 2001, is expected to close at the end
of July.


Last July, business intelligence purchases with a focus on reporting
software were all the rage. Business Objects
bought
Crystal Decisions, Hyperion snapped
up
Brio Software and Actuate acquired
Nimble Technology, all within two weeks. IBM employs reporting technology
from partner Cognos.


Microsoft has even entered the business intelligence
game, offering
SQL Server 2000 Reporting Services and later adding ad-hoc reporting
features to it by buying
start-up ActiveViews.

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