Wow, it's been a busy year for master data management (MDM). And it's only February.
Who's next? And why should anyone care?
Well, besides the fact it's a bit fun to watch these deals unfold, there are a few reasons why you should care, if you're large enough to need an MDM solution or perhaps already vested in one.
First, if you're a Microsoft or SAP shop, IBM's move means those companies-along with HP and EMC - won't be snapping up Initiate or Siperian, both of which were the top MDM solutions in terms of maturity, according to Forrester principal analyst Rob Karel.
I recently interviewed Karel about this crazy MDM market. He expressed surprised that SAP hasn't acted yet, and he continued that theme in a blog post assessing the IBM deal:
SAP, while holding decent market share against IBM and Oracle, has been well behind in its ability to execute on its promise to be a fully heterogeneous multi-domain MDM platform that served app environments that were not primarily SAP. While SAP has made significant improvements in this area in the past few releases, and the acquisition of Business Objects enabled SAP to deliver somewhat integrated high end data quality and data integration capabilities, they could really have used the massive injection of top notch, proven MDM technology that a Siperian or Initiate acquisition could have enabled.
There are still plenty of other MDM vendors, but they tend to be more niche players, he added. So, this deal also raises questions about whether MDM can survive as a standalone offering, Karel said in our discussion. Perhaps, he suggested, MDM requires the sort of large sales and support infrastructure you get from bigger vendors.
But the general upheaval in MDM aside, the IBM deal is interesting in another way. IBM has downplayed this as an MDM acquisition, positioning it more as buying into two verticals, health care and a government. Gartner's Andrew White writes that at one point during the briefing, IBM was asked what the Initiate acquisition meant for MDM. IBM responded it reflects a "verticalization of MDM." White writes that's good news for health care customers, but "troubling for IBM MDM product strategy."
Karel also commented on the positioning, pointing out that while the majority of Initiate's customers are in health care and public-sector industries, they include a share of companies from other industries. Will there still be support for these verticals, he asked, or will those customers be pushed to move to IBM's MDM Server? In fact, Karel had a lot of questions about how this might affect current Initiate customers, so if you happen to be one, definitely read his post.
Clearly, the big vendors are taking notice of MDM and getting serious about the market. And with good reason: A recent survey by Baseline Consulting found that that approximately one-third of enterprises worldwide have undertaken more than two MDM implementations.
It seems as if 2010 really will be the year for MDM, just as predicted.