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And here comes some more. IBMs recent acquisition of MRO Software is moving IBM more closely than ever into a directly competitive role in the applications space. While there may be some nuanced way that IBM can still claim not to be directly competing for applications revenues, its hard to see the MRO deal for what is it and still buy IBMs hands-off stance.
Heres the deal in a nutshell: MRO does asset management, meaning it can help manage any asset a shop floor robot, a HVAC system in a warehouse, a fleet of service vehicles, and even a nuclear power plant. IBMs Tivoli division is all about IT asset management. But if you look at what MRO manages, by definition these are a collection of smart assets that have some sort of internal intelligence and some way of sharing that intelligence with the outside world. So it makes sense that MRO plus Tivoli equals asset management squared IT management of non-traditional IT assets and thats exactly what IBM had in mind when it bought MRO.
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But wait, as they say, theres more. Guess who is looking at these assets and thinking of a little corporate power play? Any smart CIO worth his or her budget battle, thats who. Because, as IBM has clearly figured out, one of the amazing truths about all these smart devices and smart assets is that they are grossly under-managed at the enterprise level, particularly by those lords of technology sitting in the office of the CIO.
Weve known this in the manufacturing arena for some time ERP consolidation has made it even more obvious that the manufacturing shop floor is basically a mess of different devices, standards, and interfaces that are hardly linked up with one another, much less anywhere near the IT back office. Not only is integrating these assets a good idea from a management perspective what some call the sensor to boardroom opportunity its a great place for CIOs to go find a little more territory and some more budget with which to enhance their fiefdoms.
So, heres comes IBM with a great proposition, one that IBM simply cant refuse to offer. Lets take every technologically-enabled asset in the enterprise and manage it from a single application using a combination of MROs Maximo EAM product and Tivolis change and configuration management database and then help build out the CIOs power base in the enterprise while building out IBMs powerbase with the CIO.
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When asked at their latest briefing whether IBM was now competing with SAP and Oracle, IBMs answer was that theyve been doing so since the latter two entered the middleware space, IBMs self-declared sacred hunting ground. (Lets leave aside the question of who arrived in the middleware business first.) It was a testy reminder that these erstwhile partners (IBM/Oracle, and IBM/SAP) are also hearty competitors, all the more so as the white space for the big deals that each one thrives on has narrowed in recent years.
What goes around comes around, and its clear that IBMs muscular moves in EAM are going to get a lot of attention in Redwood Shores and Walldorf. Whats not clear right now is what the competitors response will be to a well-designed offering thats heading right at em. But you can sure IBMs shifting policy wont go unnoticed: no one, not even IBM, makes that kind of move unchallenged. Stay tuned.