10 Key IBM Acquisitions That Could Boost Partners

Big Blue's Buying Binge

As it sits down with its channel partners this week in Orlando at its annual PartnerWorld Leadership Conference, IBM is coming off a year that has seen it go on a shopping spree, the likes of which is rarely seen in the tech world.

In the last 12 months, Big Blue has acquired 18 companies, and the storied technology giant from Armonk, N.Y., doesn't seem to be slowing down as it pushes toward its goal to transform into a "cognitive solutions and cloud platform company," CFO Martin Schroeter told investors last month.

Some of those acquisitions should create — or have already created — near-term opportunities for partners. Meanwhile, others carry the potential of facilitating cutting-edge engagements further down the road.

Three of the deals are seen as boosts for IBM's Watson technology platform to yield insights from big data. In a keynote address at CES 2016, CEO Ginni Rometty touted Watson as a key to Big Blue's transformation from its hardware and software roots.

"People see IBM as a hardware, services and software company, and we are," Rometty said. "But we are more than that."

Rometty: 20 Percent Business Via Channel

"The most disruptive and transformative trend is cognitive," Rometty told CES. "The ability to think, learn, and understand systems, products and processes is the dawn of a new era: the cognitive era."

At last year's IBM partner conference, Rometty said the channel represents about 20 percent of IBM's overall revenue. But in a sign of what the future holds, she also said that IBM partners that focused business around strategic initiatives of cloud, analytics, mobile, social media and security were seeing 14 percent higher growth in their businesses.

While the acquired companies focusing on health care and data analytics technologies fall squarely in IBM's wheelhouse, others have been less traditional for the granddaddy of all computing companies, such as The Weather Company, a pair of video-delivery specialists and a trio of digital marketing agencies.

At a time when IBM touts transformation at every turn, nothing sheds more light on the tech giant's long-term goals, direction and future opportunities for its channel than the companies it chooses to buy.

The following is a rundown of 10 acquisitions that have clear potential impacts on channel partners.

Blue Box

IBM further entrenched itself in the OpenStack world in June 2015 with its acquisition of Blue Box, a provider of managed private-cloud services built on the open-source technology.

The Seattle-based provider's assets and technology have expanded IBM's already diverse hybrid hosting capabilities. Blue Box's proprietary cloud management console has been rejiggered as a product called Box Panel that allows partners to sell private cloud-as-a-service.


In December, IBM revealed its intention to make its cloud a world-class platform to deliver video to customers with the purchase of Duluth, Ga.-based Clearleap.

The video platform, optimized for massive scalability — one used by leading media and entertainment companies, including HBO and Verizon — is being integrated into the IBM cloud platform. Partners say the technology opens up new avenues to pursue media and entertainment industry clients.

IBM said the combination of homegrown and acquired technologies will provide enterprises with a faster, easier way to manage, monetize and grow user video experiences, and deliver them securely over mobile devices and the web.


Sometimes buying a video platform developer just gives you an appetite for a streaming video service provider.

Just weeks after buying Clearleap, IBM added to its portfolio with Ustream, a San Francisco-based provider used by name-brand customers such as Facebook, NASA and Samsung for both live and on-demand video.

Bulked up with the video chops of Clearleap and Ustream under its roof, IBM launched a unit focused on enterprise video services that gives partners a new option for organizations looking to do some video. IBM Cloud Video Services also integrates technology from two other recent acquisitions: Aspera, which accelerates large file transfers, and object-storage specialist Cleversafe.


In October, IBM beefed up its storage capabilities in the cloud and in on-premise data centers through the acquisition of Cleversafe, a Chicago-based leader in the object-based storage software market.

IBM has integrated Cleversafe — which had its own channel partner program before the acquisition — into its cloud business unit and introduced the technology to SoftLayer, the server, managed hosting and cloud-computing provider it acquired in 2013.

Partners have told CRN that IBM needed an object storage solution under its roof in order to be taken seriously as a storage vendor.


IBM purchased StrongLoop in September to facilitate development of enterprise apps in the cloud. The startup out of San Mateo, Calif., offers a development platform leveraging the Node.js runtime environment.

With StrongLoop's platform, IBM partners can visually develop APIs to connect mobile, the Internet of Things and web-based apps. That could come in handy for systems integrators and ISVs building custom solutions for their clients.

IRIS Analytics

IBM kicked off 2016 with the acquisition of IRIS Analytics, a German developer of analytic tools that can identify cybercriminals in real-time.

The technology leverages machine learning to generate anti-fraud models that banks and payment processors can use to snuff out payment fraud. This helps partners that serve the financial and payment-processing industries since they can leverage the solution to offer customers another layer of security.

IRIS Analytics' combination of cognitive techniques and professional services adheres to IBM's playbook for melding human and machine intelligence.

Merge Healthcare

IBM bought its Watson Health Cloud a pair of billion-dollar eyes in August with which to better examine patients – and potentially help partners with health-care customers.

By acquiring Merge Healthcare, a Chicago-based global medical imaging pioneer, IBM advanced its image-gathering and dissemination capabilities, a significant step toward its goal of applying machine learning to diagnose diseases.

Prior to the deal, Merge had a few health care-focused integration partners. IBM has been developing cognitive systems that can make sense of the content of photos and videos for a decade, partners told CRN, and the Merge acquisition complements those image-processing skills with a platform for sharing medical images across clinical environments. That can usher in a revolution in medicine, partners say.

In the months preceding the Merge acquisition, IBM made two other purchases in the health care space: Phytel, a developer of population health management software; and Explorys, which offers health care intelligence through big data analytics.


IBM purchased Compose Inc. in July with the stated goal of accelerating innovation around open source and cloud data services.

The containerized platform developed by Compose enables web and mobile app developers to leverage a hosted database. Partners told CRN that data-management products such as Compose help trigger engagements for the channel.

Compose Enterprise, a product derived from the acquisition, was recently added to IBM's Bluemix cloud platform as a Database-as-a-Service, enabling partners to rapidly deploy open-source databases in a repeatable, consistent fashion.


In November, IBM acquired cloud-brokerage software developer Gravitant Inc. to offer customers greater capabilities to manage multi-cloud IT environments.

Gravitant, based in Austin, Texas, created the CloudMatrix platform. That management solution can help IBM's channel implement a multi-sourced cloud operating model, creating and managing multi-cloud IT environments for their customers from a single console.


IBM's first acquisition of 2015 brought a natural language processing engine under its roof.

AlchemyAPI, a Denver-based semantic analysis company purchased in March, is helping drive IBM's development of cognitive computing applications that employ deep-learning techniques to analyze text.

AlchemyAPI's technology is being integrated into the core IBM Watson platform, making it possible to build apps that understand language and convert unstructured data into business intelligence. Such capabilities open potentially new realms of engagement for cutting-edge partners.