On Monday, IBM announced its intent to acquire all of the outstanding shares of DataMirror for $161 million. The deal, which is subject to approvals and other closing conditions, is expected to close in the third quarter.
Based in Markham, Ontario, DataMirror developed technology that IBM already uses under a partnership for helping Big Blue's customers identify and capture business information even as data is added, updated, or deleted across an enterprise network. The changes are identified in real-time so key decision-makers can better understand what's transpiring.
"What the DataMirror acquisition does is give IBM another arrow in its quiver to go after customers on the business intelligence side," said Ian Finley, research director at AMR Research. "It allows them to build on what they got when they bought Ascential Software a couple of years back."
DataMirror's changed data capture (CDC) technology is designed to minimize the impact of data requests by not querying databases. Instead, the software combs through log files for the latest data, explained Rob Karel, principal analyst at Forrester Research. "Businesses can't afford for their production systems to take a significant performance hit," Karel said.
"Because DataMirror is only pulling information from these log files, there is minimal impact on the production system," Karel noted. The size of the log files are minimal because they only tell users what was updated since the previous poll, "which makes for a smaller set of data that can be configured to change as often as you want."
DataMirror's technology can be configured to trigger critical business decisions and events. "Basically, you can configure the technology so that when an event happens -- a product is purchased or a customer calls in -- you can send that data to whatever target systems need to know it," Karel said.
Ten years ago, business managers were content to have accurate quarterly reports, AMR Research's Finley explained, and five years ago their needs were fulfilled by monthly or weekly reports. By purchasing DataMirror, he said, IBM will be able to "move up the graph from Ascential's translate-and-load data capability to offer real-time, up-to-the-minute analysis."
IBM's acquisition of DataMirror rounds out the connectivity story for IBM Information Server -- an integrated all-in-one offering along the lines of Websphere -- because IBM was missing CDC capabilities for certain data sources, noted Ted Friedman, principal analyst at Gartner Research. "DataMirror has strength here," Friedman said. "But IBM is left with overlapping solutions that require rationalization."
A Migration Path
About 50 percent of DataMirror's revenue has come in the past from its High Availability/Data Recovery (HA/DR) offering, which entails creating a mirror image of a company's full database in another location so businesses can switch to it to minimize downtime and data losses in the event of a system crash or a disaster. "The idea is about grabbing the data quickly without slowing down the network," Findley said. "But the way IBM is talking about DataMirror is to deemphasize this part of the acquisition."
However, Friedman said, because IBM already offers its clients similar capabilities through its "System i" business unit, it remains unclear how important the HA/DR part of DataMirror's business really is to IBM. Therefore, Friedman advised, DataMirror customers will "need to push IBM for their intent and plans around those products."
On the other hand, he added, IBM will not be able to provide any significant product roadmap information about how it expects to resolve the issue until the acquisition closes.
The good news lies in IBM having been historically diligent about maintaining the products it acquires and eventually providing a migration path to whatever strategic product it offers as a replacement, Finley observed. He said he sees the only question for DataMirror's current HA/DR customers being about how IBM will support them going forward.