Tibco software, a business integration and data analytics player, announced yesterday an agreement to acquire Information Builders (IBI), a pioneer in business intelligence (BI) and business reporting. However, the terms of trade were not disclosed Reuters has reported that the deal can be valued as high as $ 1 billion.
ZDNet spoke with CEOs of both companies, explaining the synergies they see as a result of the acquisition. Describing the courtship of the two companies, IBI Director Frank J. Vella said compatibility was very high: “… you are not often in a luxurious position to choose your buyer; it must be mutual,” Vella said. He added “… there was great interest. We were pleasantly surprised and flattered by the interest.” Vella also noted that people, products and customers were IBI’s top priorities in assessing the right buyer, and that Tibco excelled in all three areas. He further felt that the product portfolios for the most part seemed complementary.
Tibco CEO Dan Streetman agreed with Vella’s assessment of compatibility, saying “For Frank’s point, the place where we potentially have the most overlap in a Venn chart may be in visualizations and analyzes, but we have this dissertation on, that analysis is far more than BI and far more than visualizations. It’s hyperconverged analysis, and it really extends all the way to integration and data preparation … so we see a lot of good synergies in culture, but also in products. “Streetman feels also that when taking into account situations where the two companies have a presence in different parts of the same company, the actual overlap in the customer base would be at most 20%. Streetman also commented that he expects the merger to be completed in Tibco’s next fiscal year, which begins on December 1st.
Software on the street
If you grew up in the tech consulting world, as I did, you know the names of both companies pretty well. Information Builders was co-founded in 1975 by native New Yorker and longtime CEO Gerald Cohen, and was for many years considered the largest software company in New York City. In the early days of the company, the FOCUS platform made it much easier to report mainframe data with its own 4GL (fourth generation language) to create the reports. IBI then announced complete business information for many clients in the financial services, healthcare and other business sectors.
In addition, from 2001 IBI had a sister company, iWay Software, which was a very successful provider of enterprise integration. At one point, Microsoft acquired many of iWay’s connectors and put them “in the box” (ie bundled them for free) with its BizTalk server integration platform. While that and other events seemed to knock significant wind out of iWay’s sails, it remained a healthy legacy business for IBI. Many years of older customers and their loyalty have been the hallmarks of IBI for years. Founded in 1997, Tibco, meanwhile, created integration software that could work at the speed that Wall Street trading floors had to turn orders into trades, seemingly infallible. If you believed all the (high paid) consultants who built these systems, no competitor could come close.
The Middle Ages
In their more mature years, both companies endured challenges and launched comebacks. While Tibco was quickly released in 1999, it was taken private again 15 years later Vista Equity Partners and it was regrouped. In early 2019, Gerry Cohen resigned as IBI CEO and handed over the reins to then-COO Frank J. Vella, who joined the company just as Goldman Sachs’ Private Capital Investing group had made a significant investment, in 2017. In 2018, while Vella was still COO, IBI announced a major modernization of its WebFOCUS platform.
Tibco has built up its data analytics stack significantly over the years. The acquired self-service BI (SSBI) player Spotfire (originally a peer to Table and Qlik in the early days of SSBI) in 2007. In 2013, Tibco acquired complex event management provider StreamBase, and it seized the provider of open source BI and reporting tools Japsersoft the following year.
Tibco acquired Statistica from Quest software, CISCOs Data virtualization business (originally the independent Composite Software) and AI-focused Alpine Data Labs, all in 2017. In 2018, Tibco added integration platform as a service (iPaaS) and Master Data Management (MDM) through acquisitions of Scribe Software and Orchestra Networks, respectively. And last year, Tibco added in-memory database technology to its bag of buying tricks SnappyData.
In addition to the significant portfolio assets mentioned above, Tibco has long had its own proprietary cluster computer distribution of the R computer science language, known as the Tibco Enterprise Runtime for R, or TERR. TERR was integrated into Spotfire several years ago and added AI capabilities to the BI platform.
Pull it together?
But even with these significant BI, streaming and AI assets and the addition of IBI’s WebFocus platform, will Tibco be an analytical powerhouse? Perhaps ironically for an integration specialist, Tibco has had some technical debt around uniting, rather than simply owning, all of its constituent platforms; adding portfolio of information builders and iWay will only increase the challenge.
Whatever Tibco certainly gets out of this deal is a formidable set of corporate customers that analytical technologies already under its roof might appeal to, especially if Tibco can be these customers’ sayings a throat to suffocate by supporting all of this .
Whether customers or a sense of elegance may be the catalyst, Tibco would do well to merge and clean up all these analytical chess pieces. Applications are becoming data sources, and Tibco’s dual focus on data analysis and business system integrations puts it in a well-placed strategic context, enabling the digital transformation to accelerate for all its customers. But the pieces are not enough; they must be assembled correctly to solve this Industry 4.0 puzzle. Can Tibco do that? In the name of unleashing all the latent value in its holdings, I certainly hope it tries. As Information Builders is Tibco’s largest acquisition ever, it has ample motivation.