IBM's Ascential buy - good sense?
Comment I know that some readers will suggest that I am protesting too much, but the honest truth is that I did not know that IBM was going to acquire Ascential when I wrote last week  about IBM needing ETL (extract, transform and load).
Of course, it has been rumoured as a potential acquisition ever since IBM bought Informix, because IBM gained the rights to resell DataStage and Ascential's associated tools at the same time. However, IBM also has the rights to resell Ab Initio and, in any case, who listens to rumours?
The simple question is: does this purchase make sense? Given everything that I wrote last week, the obvious answer is yes. There is some work to do with regard to integrating the Ascential Suite with WebSphere Information Integrator, though you can already call routines in the former from the latter.
More than that there is some integration work to be done within the Ascential Suite itself, which has never been very well integrated. However, I understand that integration at the metadata level was already on the Ascential roadmap. On the other hand, the company has been talking about an integrated metadata layer ever since it was Ardent (prior to Informix buying it), and I have become jaundiced enough to take the view that I will believe it when I see it. That said, I know that IBM sees this as a priority so I expect it will finally happen.
As to the future, IBM is not in a position to say right now, and it will not be until at or near the closure of this deal (2nd qtr) that it will be able to elaborate further. Even then, longer-term plans may take a while to appear. For example, at this stage we do not even know how the products will be branded. Best guess is that like WebSphere Information Integrator they will adopt the WebSphere brand but remain within the DB2 group. Which poses an interesting (and slightly frivolous) side-question: given the growing number of WebSphere products managed by Janet Perna, does this represent a takeover of WebSphere by DB2?
A more serious question is how this will impact the rest of the market. Actually, the market is becoming polarised at present: there are database vendors (Oracle and Microsoft) doing their own thing; there are smaller vendors like Sunopsis and Embarcadero doing interesting things; there are BI suppliers (SAS, Business Objects and Cognos) supporting their own environments; and then there is Informatica and Ab Initio. It is the last two that are likely to be most affected by this purchase, as both are existing partners of IBM.
Indeed, I have already had one email asking me how long it will be before Larry Ellison buys Informatica. Actually, I don't think he will; my personal view is that some sort of closer relationship with WebMethods is more likely. If Larry is thinking of buying an ETL vendor (and I am by no means convinced of that) then Ab Initio would be a more likely target. Even if he isn't, I think Ab Initio's days as an independent vendor are numbered, but that is a story for another occasion.
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