On the Merger and Acquisition Front
In a recent coup de grace, Datavantage, a wholly owned subsidiary of MICROS Systems, acquired CommercialWare, which had been owned by Capital Resources Partners, a private equity investment firm, for $13.2 million. Datavantage expects this merger will create a combined customer base of over 400 customers and brands. The mutual goal is to accelerate the delivery of cross-channel solutions, extend market reach, and offer complementary solutions to customers. This announcement should be of interest to IT decision-makers in small and mid-sized companies, especially System i5 customers in the retail vertical.
Datavantage provides retailers with management solutions such as store systems, business analytics, and marketing applications, which are Java- and open standards-based. Products include Java POS, POS for specialty as well as large-volume retailers, business intelligence, loss prevention, CRM, audit, and gift and loyalty card programs. CommercialWare provides such solutions as order management, customer service, fulfillment, POS, CRM, back office, merchandise location, direct-to-consumer supply chain, business intelligence, enterprise application integration, and cross-channel gift card.
While the announcement claims the solutions of both vendors are complementary, there appears to be some overlap. While Datavantage says it will immediately integrate CommercialWare's product line, IT decision-makers should exercise caution. While integration can assist in simplification and greater delivery of efficiencies, there is always the potential for product elimination due to redundancy and product dilution due to R&D dollars being otherwise allocated. Those who already own and run CommercialWare products should seek both to understand the combined Datavantage/CommercialWare roadmap and to renegotiate existing contracts to protect their companies' investments from, for example, exorbitant increases in maintenance fees. Before making new purchases, IT decision-makers should also assess the value of any existing investments and understand the strategic business initiatives of their companies to determine if offerings from either of these two vendors separately or combined will meet their business requirements.
Collaborating to Make AJAX a Household Name
AJAX is an open-client technology that some companies are assimilating into their external-facing Internet and internal-facing intranet Web sites to simplify users' online browsing, shopping, working, navigating, and planning experiences. AJAX allegedly can streamline the process of completing a Web transaction and allow the browser to automatically refresh for information exchange. If this initiative succeeds, it should, for example, streamline the online shopping experience as well as reduce delays when submitting an online form.
Participants in this new initiative, which has been given the moniker "Open Ajax," include BEA, Borland, the Dojo Foundation, the Eclipse Foundation, Google, IBM, Laszlo Systems, Mozilla Corporation, Novell, Openwave Systems, Oracle, Red Hat, Yahoo, Zend, and Zimbra. If the promise of AJAX is fulfilled, it will be computer-, application-, desktop-, and operating system-agnostic, and it will integrate into existing or new products.
Collaboration of this type among this particular group of vendors in this initiative—if they follow through, keep up the momentum, and succeed—will set a constructive example for other such collaborations by other vendors on other initiatives. While many multi-vendor collaborations have, in the past, been unsuccessful, it must be reinforced by vendors and customers alike that collaborative efforts of this kind are not only beneficial to customers, but also ultimately valuable to the vendors.
Another IBM announcement declares that the company has teamed up with Passlogix to help customers gain greater control over endless system requests to enter or change a user ID or password. Riled up for many years, customers have been petitioning IBM and other vendors for single sign-on capabilities. IBM's Tivoli Access Manager for Enterprise Single Sign-on, which incorporates technology from Passlogix, provides single password access for Lotus Notes, SAP, and Microsoft Windows-based applications, among others. In addition, IBM's password management software also enables greater support for "two-factor authentication," in which two different forms of verification, such as smart cards or biometrics, are required to sign on to a computer.
The benefits of these capabilities span the gamut of reducing confusion and frustration to enabling users to be more productive. It is paramount to data protection, privacy (e.g., HIPAA), and security. One example is that of healthcare professionals who work in hospitals and sign on to the same computer but have different entitlements regarding the viewing and changing of medical data. Due to the nature of the hospital workplace, these healthcare professionals can easily forget to log off. The software, in this case, monitors activity on the workstation and terminates inactive sessions after a pre-set amount of time, thereby requiring the next person to sign on in order to enter the system.
Single sign-on capabilities have far-reaching implications in government, finance, aerospace, and defense, providing greater security as well as compliance. IBM says the Tivoli Access Manager for Enterprise Single Sign-on will be available in this quarter.
Nouveau Move for Novell
Of considerable importance to small and mid-sized enterprises is Novell's recent announcement that it will bundle support and training offerings with SUSE Linux Enterprise Server. This is key for small- and mid-sized businesses that often run lean and mean and seek integrated turnkey solutions. Novell says it will include 24x7 support and online assistance to its customers.
The bundling of support and training with Linux is expected to benefit customers and channel partners alike as it provides partners with a solution that should be simpler to explain, implement, and support. This also provides customers who have yet to bring Linux in house (or have done so minimally) to test the product in their workplace more effectively and comprehensively. This may enable customers to discover how Linux can be incorporated into their unique environments and deliver value and savings.
It is a great pleasure for this analyst to report on recent news in which many leading vendors have actually placed the needs of the customer first, especially in a time when IT budgets are being either reduced or further scrutinized. IT has, during the last several years, had to do more with less, often forgoing the testing of new technologies in favor of maintaining existing systems. In a time when compliance is key and resources scarce, it is refreshing to see industry leading vendors stepping up to the plate to empower the customer. I hope more vendors will follow suit.