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Tibco (TIBX) has been running on all cylinders of late. In earnings and revenues, it has kept up with the Joneses in the enterprise software neighborhood, running respectable 25% revenue and 30+% software license growth numbers in its most recent quarterly year over year results (pdf), as we’ve noted in several of our recent Ovum research notes.

It is beginning to make the turn from its geeky roots towards more solution selling to the business side in tone and deed. Ever since the 2007 Spotfire acquisition – which brought real-time analytic visualizations – it has made several buys that are more targeted to the business rather than strictly the IT or CIO side. They include Netrics, for fuzzy logic technologies for pattern matching; Loyalty Lab, for managing customer affinity programs; and Nimbus, a recent addition, which adds process discovery and management of manual activity that comprise the other 80% of what happens inside an enterprise.

Of course it’s not as if Tibco were trying to pull an HP (HPQ) in doing a 180 on its business strategy (heaven forbid, we don’t need any more senseless Silicon Valley soap operas!). Core infrastructure plays, such as FTL ultra low latency messaging or the DataSynapse data grid, remain core to Tibco’s 2-second advantage mission. It’s just that, in modest but growing cases, the raw technology is being packaged as a black box underneath more business-focused solutions. For instance, Tibco is packaging solutions for retail such as Active Catalog and Active Fulfillment that underneath the hood bundle Tibco Business Events (CEP), Active Matrix BPM, and other pieces.

Of course, such transformations don’t come overnight, as there is the need to get field sales up to speed and accustomed to calling on new entry points at target prospect. Not surprisingly, Tibco is also ramping up vertical solutions, but on an opportunistic basis. An example: we met with a European telco customer that is using Business Events for monitoring devices (in this case, water meters) which may present an opportunity for Tibco to develop an M2M (machine-to-machine) event-driven integration solution that could be more widely applied to segments such as utilities or logistics/transportation.

Several of its recent acquisitions, such as Foresight, a healthcare payer EDI gateway and Open Spirit, for data integration for upstream oil and gas processing, are strictly vertical plays. Loyalty Labs, which provides analytics for customer affinity programs, has helped make retail one of its fastest growing verticals coming from a near-zero client base a few years back.

Tibco is traveling a similar road as IBM (IBM), but is starting from a much earlier point in developing vertical solutions. As Tibco lacks the professional services presence of IBM, it has to cherry-pick its vertical opportunities.

At this point, the major disrupters for Tibco are big data and mobility.

For mobile the challenge is integrating alerts from Tibco’s Business Events and Spotfire engines to clients; tibbr, its internal collaboration messaging platform, provides the logical environment for bringing its events feed out to mobile devices. This could be bolstered with its recent Nimbus acquisition, both for input (process discovery, using mobile devices to snap a picture, for instance) and output (for communicating how to perform manual processes out to the field).

Big data positioning and productization for Tibco is also a work in progress. Its message busses can in some cases handle enormous amounts of data; its business event engine could also provide feeds if Tibco can make the sensing agent more lightweight; its BPM offering could be configured to get triggered based on specific event patterns that may involve crunching of enormous volumes of event feeds.

But there is a brave new world of variably structured data that is becoming fair game for enterprises to sense and respond. We don’t expect Tibco to buy its own Advanced SDQL platform or create its own Hadoop distribution, as Tibco is not about data at rest, nor is it a database player (OK, its MDM offering does have to store master and reference data). Nonetheless, delivering the 2-second advantage in a big world where the data is getting bigger, bigger, and more heterogeneous raises the urgency for Tibco to distinguish itself in extending its visibility.

When we were asked by the executive marketing team of our impressions this year, our thoughts were, well, there was hardly anything newsworthy. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as during a strategy roadmap presentation at this year’s Tibco TUCON conference, a timeline of Tibco acquisitions showed roughly a half dozen entries for 2010 and just one for this year. Over the past year Tibco has been preoccupied with absorbing the new acquisitions and so – Nimbus excluded – has not been active on this front lately. For instance, Tibco has integrated the Netrics fuzzy pattern matching engine into Business Events, where it belongs. It has similarly blended the recently acquired data grid technology with Business Events. Check out Sandy Kemsley’s post for a more detailed blow-by-blow on how Tibco has rounded out its product portfolio over the past year.

With the swoon on Wall Street, Tibco has left its $250 cash stash alone, in spite of the fact that there are plenty of acquisition targets available at reasonable prices right now as a lot of venture funds are looking for exits. By its CFO’s words, the company is not as enormous as IBM or Oracle (ORCL), where acquisitions don’t disrupt the entire company. Nonetheless, we expect that 2012 will grow more active in acquisitions – we hope that acquisition of a data quality provider makes the top of the shopping list.

Disclaimer: Author is an analyst with Ovum; the opinion stated does not necessarily reflect that of Ovum.

Source: Tibco: No Acquisition News Is Not Bad News