IBM Talks Up Ascential Synergies

As of this week, IBM Software is offering a beta version of what was going to be Ascential's newest Enterprise Integration Suite, or "Project Hawk," said Janet Perna, general manager of IBM Information Management Solutions. That product will be dubbed WebSphere Data Integration Suite when complete, she said.

Design goals for Hawk include simpler deployment, management and administration, as well as performance and scalability improvements, she said.

In addition, Perna announced immediate availability of the new IBM Federated Records Management. This IBM-branded solution "brings together two acquisitions--Venetica with its content federation and Tarian with its electronic records management," Perna said during a press meeting Wednesday morning at Ascential's former headquarters in Westborough, Mass.

IBM bought Tarian in November 2002 and Venetica last August.

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The goal is to provide one records-management system across all content sources, such as FileNet, Documentum, OpenText, etc., Perna said. Records management has become a superheated arena with the advent of Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA and Basel II regulations governing how companies must archive, manage and protect data.

Analysts say the issue of connecting silos of information is huge. "Making data accessible from the various rat holes around the enterprise is a 20 year problem Any improvement is welcome," said Dana Gardner, analyst with Boston-based Yankee Group.

IBM announced plans to buy Ascential and its data integration expertise in mid-March, roughly four years after it bought the Informix database business from the same company. The Ascential deal closed last Friday.

IBM, Armonk, N.Y. is now merging those integration services into its own information management portfolio, although there is already a good deal of interoperability because of Ascential and IBM's previous relationship, said Pete Fiore, former president of Ascential and now vice president of IBM's Information Integration Solutions group.

Ascential is IBM Software's 21st acquisition in four years. Throughout its buying spree, IBM has maintained it will be a platform, not an applications, company, positioning itself as a friend to third-party ISVs in contrast to Oracle and Microsoft, both of which have huge plans for the applications market. However, many of IBM's acquisitions appear to be moving IBM into the applications space as well, ISVs said.

"At least IBM says it wants to be partners," quipped Neal Hill, senior vice president of corporate development at Cognos, an Ottawa-based business intelligence ISV. Cognos business intelligence, reporting and performance management tools run across a range of third-party databases, applications and infrastructure.

"We always have to see which way the wind's blowing with all these guys," he said.

Microsoft, for example, sparked fears among analytics and business intelligence players by including reporting services with the SQL Server database.

The Redmond, Wash.-based software giant is expected to up the ante later this year when it starts talking publicly about a planned Office Realtime Reporting Server that taps into back-office ERP and other applications. Oracle, Redwood Shores, Calif., is likewise building more analytics into its applications and database.

Despite these moves, Oracle and Microsoft continue to maintain there is room for ISVs to innovate atop their respective software stacks.

This story was updated Thursday morning with analyst comment.