IBM speeds up SOA buying spree with MRO Software

The convergence between asset management software for industrial equipment and IT infrastructure led IBM on Thursday to make its second acquisition in as many days.

Big Blue said it would pay US$740 million to acquire MRO Software Inc., of Bedford. Mass. Employing about 1,000 people worldwide, MRO focuses on verticals such as utilities, manufacturing, energy and pharmaceutical firms. Its flagship product, Maximo Enterprise Suite, is used to track production equipment and facilities for about 300,000 users. Its marquee customers include BP, Exxon Mobil and Frito-Lay.

IBM said it would make MRO a part of its Tivoli unit, which provides management software through its Global Services consulting unit. On Wednesday, IBM bought middleware provider Webify for an undisclosed amount to round out its portfolio of service-oriented architecture products. Al Zollar, general manager, IBM Tivoli software, said MRO completes another piece of that puzzle. As an example, he referred to the work IBM is doing to embed radio-frequency identification chips and systems actuators in physical assets.

“That requires customers to perform incident management on these assets similar to the way they’ve been managing servers and network and storage devices in these enterprises,” he said. “They want a consistent and comprehensive way to manage corporate assets.”

MRO president and CEO Chip Drapeau said the company has spent the last year developing capabilities in its products to work within SOAs.

“We’ve noticed a pronounced trend in our customer base over the last several years as IT assets become more integral to the operation of these plants and the resources,” he said. “We’re very excited about the prospects of putting our competitors in a little bit of a box where they have to say they’re working on something like this or it’s not that great of an idea. Neither of those, we think, are going to be very strong competitive platforms.”

MRO had a small presence in Canada which included a sales office in London, Ont. In March, the company said it had signed an agreement with Bell Canada to offer Maximo Enterprise Suite as part of Bell’s own IT solution set based upon Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL)-compliant solutions for IT asset management and IT service management.

As recently as this week, meanwhile, MRO attracted Burlington., Ont.-based Ivara Corp. as a “reliability partner,” delivering advanced capabilities to complement the Maximo Enterprise Suite in conjunction with its own software product, EXP. A spokeswoman for Ivara said the company is not yet an IBM partner but expects to continue its relationship with MRO.

Zollar refused to comment specifically on the future of the MRO product line until the deal is closed, but he indicated it would continue to be supported. 

“Our intention is to run this as an integrated unit within the Tovili division for quite some time. “The Maximo Enterprise Suite is the core asset beyond the people . . . what we really want to do is keep the enterprise asset management business going.”

Drapeau, meanwhile, said he would be surprised if both companies did not share a number of customers.

“This is not one where we’re abandoning our roots in any sense of the word,” he said. “As clients think about doing more with a single infrastructure, doing more with a holistic view of their assets, this (deal) positions us very nicely versus some of the more stove-piped solutions that would fragment the environment.”

IBM said it expects to close the deal within the fourth quarter of this year.

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