A couple of weeks ago, I was discussing the future of modelling tools over breakfast with Danny Sabbah, General Manager of IBM Rational Software. The modelling tools market is growing fairly slowly, and Danny made it clear that Rational was looking to increase its market share substantially.
So today's announcement [note 1] that IBM is going to acquire Telelogic makes a lot of commercial sense. Telelogic has an impressive portfolio of tools, especially since its acquisition of Popkin in 2005, and it has a strong position in Requirements Management (DOORS) and Enterprise Architecture (System Architect). Popkin contributed significantly to the Business Process Management Initiative (BPMI), and was closely allied to John Zachman.
Telelogic's tools and methods didn't suit every user company, and in the past I have sometimes had occasion to be mildly critical of Popkin, especially from an SOA perspective. The Popkin acquisition was billed at the time as a move into SOA [note 2] but this promise was only just starting to be realised with the announcement last month of System Architect for SOA [note 3].
If IBM had wanted to buy a pure SOA modelling company, there would have been other, perhaps worthier candidates. But Telelogic is undoubtedly more attractive to IBM, because of its other assets and relationships; IBM can be relatively unconcerned by Telelogic's weaknesses, and should have little difficulty reassuring the customers of both companies.
But growth by acquisition is only one piece of Danny's strategy for IBM Rational. Another important piece is a shift in focus - from selling tools and technologies to selling process and business value. This means selling to the business, not selling to developers. Instead of being billed as a software engineering methodology, RUP may come to be positioned as an industry model for the software development industry, which IBM should be able sell in the same way it sells industry models for banking, insurance and other industries.
Modelling tool vendors have always faced the problem of growth. If the tools are good, they may get a loyal community of keen developers, but that is not quite enough. Rational itself had reached a plateau as an independent vendor before its acquisition by IBM in 2002. Is there more consolidation to come?
[Note 1] IBM to Acquire Telelogic to Advance Global Software Delivery Strategy (June 2007), IBM beats HP in bid for Telelogic (June 2007)
[Note 2] Telelogic's Popkin Purchase Prepares the Way for SOA (April 2005), Telelogic looks to bring modeling to SOA (Nov 2006)
[Note 3] Telelogic Facilitates Service Oriented Architecture Adoption (May 2007), Telelogic Adds Business Process SOA Solution (May 2007), Telelogic tools tie software services to business processes (June 2007)