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IBM is boosting its already-hefty suite of WebSphere integration products with its $1.1 billion acquisition of data integration developer Ascential Software Corp.

Ascential, of Westboro, Mass., will bring functionality in several key areas, including data transformation, data cleansing and data profiling, along with classic ETL (extraction, transformation and loading) tools—all capabilities that are useful as companies seek to unify customer data for RFID (radio-frequency identification) and business intelligence projects.

IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., plans to meld the Ascential products with its namesake WebSphere Information Integrator product portfolio, as well as with some products from its software group.

Information Integrator enables users to manage and access disparate pieces of data from a centrally managed environment.

With the addition of Ascential’s tools, users will be able to better integrate, structure and manage data, officials said.

The combination of IBM’s current data integration capabilities and Ascential’s capabilities also aligns IBM more closely with partners Oracle Corp. and SAP AG in their respective quests to become integration infrastructure players. And it may give the company a momentary leg up on its competitors.

Click here to read a question-and-answer session with IBM’s Janet Perna on how the company’s purchase of Ascential is expected to expand IBM’s ETL capabilities.

Currently, neither Oracle nor SAP—or Microsoft Corp., for that matter—is making data integration a core part of its strategy, according to Judith Hurwitz, president and CEO of IT research company Hurwitz Group Inc. But it is something they will need to look at moving forward.

“Being able to move, transform and load huge volumes of data will increasingly become an issue,” said Hurwitz in Newton, Mass. “Would it make sense for Oracle to buy Informatica [Corp.]? It might. And you see Business Objects [S.A.] talk a lot about integration. You will see more consolidation [in this area].”

Despite criticisms in the past that IBM has a broad portfolio of integration products that aren’t well-integrated—the software group has made 21 acquisitions in the past four years—IBM officials expect few surprises when it comes to adding Ascential to the fold.

The two companies have been partners for four years, with co-development and co-marketing plans in place, and have 550 joint customers.

To read more about IBM’s announcement of its intent to acquire Ascential, click here.

“One thing we make sure of is a cultural fit for our organization and a shared vision,” said Janet Perna, general manager of IBM’s Information Management Software division. “With Ascential, we have a shared vision and a shared strategy.”

The deal is expected to close next quarter.

Ascential tools under IBM umbrella

  • Enterprise Integration Suite Supports integration of data in a variety of environments, from transactional to analytical
  • ProfileStage Automates data profiling and source system analysis
  • QualityStage Coordinates the delivery of consistent customer, supplier and product information to business users
  • DataStage Enables data integration from different sources
  • DataStage TX Extends data transformation capabilities of DataStage to event-driven integration, parsing, validation and transformation of hierarchical data formats
  • SOA Editions Publishes processes from DataStage, DataStage TX and Enterprise Integration Suite as shared services


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