IBM announced plans to acquire database security vendor Guardium for what some sources have pinned at $225 million.

The acquisition is a big validation of the database activity monitoring (DAM) market, which has managed to maintain healthy traction within the channel  even in the down market.

"These products play a critical role in establishing a 360-degree capability to monitor the security of critical applications. The healthy valuation Guardium seems to have drawn reflects the importance of real-time, application-centric security monitoring," says Alison Andrews, CEO of Vigilant, a New York-based Guardium partner. "As security monitoring has become significantly more multi-layered and complex, resources that can be assigned to the task are finite.  In this environment, its critical to focus monitoring efforts directly on the assets that matter most to the business."

According to IBM officials, Big Blue was drawn to Guardium for its ability to not only help customers monitor IBM database systems, but also keep tabs across platforms.

"This marks a significant expansion in our ability to help our clients monitor and govern data in multiplatform environments," says Arvind Krishna, general manager, IBM Information Management. "Structured information is at the center of many business transformations and the integrity of data is critical if an organization is going to use information as a strategic assets. This cross platform support is critical for our and is a key competitive differentiator for IBM."

Some analysts believe that among Guardium’s portfolio assets, its mainframe support likely played a large role in IBM’s decision matrix. Guardium was the only standalone database activity monitoring vendor on the market with sufficient support for IBM mainframes.

"So I think there’s going to be a heavy emphasis on the mainframe side of the business," Mogull says. "It is probably one of the major reasons they did this."

It is not immediately clear how exactly the 150-strong Guardium workforce will integrate into IBM’s org chart, but Big Blue did say today that IBM’s Information Krishna division is taking the lead in transitioning the company into the IBM fold. Krishna says the company will need to walk a ‘fine line’ between allowing Guardium to maintain the identity and corporate culture necessary to continue its evolution in database security, while still leveraging IBM’s resources to ramp up growth. He reports that IBM plans to throw more personnel resources at database activity monitoring as Guardium makes the transition.

Krishna believes IBM Information Management is an ideal business unit to lead the integration because of how it fits into IBM’s long-term business analytics strategy. 

"When you hear us use the term ‘analytics’ here, it’s in the broader context of both specifically analytics as well as the infrastructure of data information that provides the data for those analytics," he says.

As with any acquisition, though, success will likely depend on how well IBM manages to integrate Guardium into its overall portfolio. Shlomo Kramer, CEO with Imperva, now the largest independent player in the database activity market, wonders how well  Guardium customers and future IBM customers will fare with this integration.

"Today’s enterprises are shifting away from siloed security products in favor of an integrated approach that protects more than just databases," he says. "IBM may have just added a new product to their extensive catalog, but they’ve also created a major integration headache if they wish to fully meet customer demands.”

And according to Mogull, this could potentially  mean problems for Guardium partners depending on how IBM handles the transition.

"You know this is obviously going to be a potential problem for anybody who is a Guardium partner within the channel," he says. "The channel is pretty familiar with how IBM does its acquisitions and the amount of time involved and the impacts of that. This is a higher end enterprise sale, so it would not surprise me if IBM relies more on its own sales force."

However, Krishna assures current Guardium channel partners that even though IBM will extend internal sales efforts around the newly acquired Guardium portfolio, IBM plans to remain true to Guardium’s existing channel and to engage IBM partners with the new offerings.

"It is pretty clear that these channel partners bring significant value in getting access to clients that would be outside the purview of even IBM’s very large sales force," he says, pointing to Guardium’s well developed international channel. He also says North American partners are important, "because clients tend to look to their preferred partners for advice counsel and recommendations. So we intend to carry on with all of the channel partners."

Andrews of Vigilant believes that regardless of what happens with Guardium, channel partners should keep their eyes peeled for further developments in this new era of DAM.

“As in any acquisition situation, products resellers must re-evaluate their selection of vendors," she says, "but DAM will remain an important component of the enterprise solutions provided by Vigilant.”