Continuing on its acquisition frenzy of the past couple of years, IBM recently announced it is acquiring Worklight, an Israeli-based company that focuses on providing an enterprise-class platform for mobilizing corporate applications. Its rapid deployment and easily integrated services engine has a significant installed base of users, including in financial institutions and pharmaceuticals. Worklight’s ability to work across all the major platforms and to integrate with enterprise backend systems makes it attractive to many larger firms, and to IBM.
IBM and Worklight have worked together for some time and have already launched mobile apps at some of IBM’s major customers. To this end, Worklight has spent a good deal of time integrating with a number of IBM tools and technologies, including its Rational development system, the open source Eclipse development environment, and most importantly, IBM’s WebSphere application server. We expect the new relationship to accelerate Worklight’s integration with the IBM social suite of tools (e.g., Connections, Sametime, Travelr), as well as IBM’s Sterling Commerce suite and Cognos business analytics. This should finally give IBM the competitive enterprise mobile offering that it has been lacking and with theupcoming integration with additional services, will give IBM a leadership position in several categories.
IBM has struggled to implement a truly mobile-friendly enterprise application environment, despite investing in this space over many years. Most IBM mobile installations have been custom implementations created by its professional services arm on top of WebSphere and taking a relatively long time (and high expense) to get to market. Further, it has only been attractive to its large customers, as the requirement for WebSphere and related technologies means companies must make a significant and long term commitment to IBM which effectively eliminates many SMBs. With this acquisition, IBM acquires a standards based mobile deployment capability (HTML5 and/or native iOS/Android/BB) that can provide for rapid development and migration of corporate B2B and B2C apps to all the popular mobile devices, with a quick time to market and a minimum of professional services required. However, this does not eliminate the need for customers to have a significant IBM platform investment in place, so this will not be attractive to many SMBs unless IBM offers a hosted and affordable cloud-based service (which it no doubt will ultimately do).
We believe this move by IBM, and the integration of Worklight with its Websphere application platform in particular, will finally allow it to compete on a mobile basis with the leading ERP/CRM vendor, namely SAP (who acquired Sybase some time ago for a very similar need – See our research note “SAP Leaves its Competition Immobilized”, Technology Brief, June 15, 2011). A majority of enterprises are no longer willing to develop fully custom solutions that require many months or years of specialty work. IBM can now claim they provide a reasonably quick way for existing clients to mobilize their internal and external facing requirements. In conjunction with IBM’s preferred development environment (Rational), its mobile management tools it is also announcing (Endpoint Manager for Mobile Devices,extended from Tivoli) and its ability to tie in its industry-leading mobile social capabilities, we believe IBM will achieve significant customer acceptance.
With both SAP and IBM now offering a compelling set of mobile features, it leaves Oracle as the only major enterprise app vendor to not have a capable mobile strategy and leaves it at a very significant competitive disadvantage in the marketplace. IBM should be able to leverage this disparity to compete for somevery big accounts that Oracle has left vulnerable. We do expect Oracle toeventually move down a similar path to IBM (and SAP) and acquire a compelling mobile app technology, but so far they have shown little interest in doing so, focusing instead on home-built technology which has proven less than compelling.
Bottom Line: IBM has finally gotten some “mobile religion” and this acquisition will allow it to compete favorably in the enterprise application market. The days of drawn out and expensive mobile app deployments requiring specialized professional services are rapidly passing from the scene. Enterprises that have an investment in IBM infrastructure should seriously consider looking at this renewed capability in mobility, especially since mobile social will become a major requirement going forward. Companies that do not rapidly deploy mobile apps toboth their internal and external constituencies face a major market disadvantage.
Jack E. Gold
J.Gold Associates, LLC.
Research, Analysis, Strategic Consulting