IBM Buys Sterling- A Glimpse From The Land Of Rounding Errors

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To some folks this is just a flash banner on a website, amongst the many marketing messages that you typically find on a technology provider’s dot com website.

“IBM acquires Sterling Commerce from AT&T for $1.4B”.

For many customers it means reconsidering 30 year old technology that enables many mission critical processes.  When something like this happens, in my past life at Gartner I would be required to write 3 paragraphs: what happened, my analysis and what should customers do.  And I had to be politically correct because all three companies were important customers to Gartner.  I could give thoughtful analysis but I had to produce multiple caveats to indemnify myself and Gartner.  ( Hey it’s a decent business model!)

But when my new bosses asked me to write a quick blurb giving my opinion, I wrote 300 words but quickly erased 200 of them.  Here is what you need to know…

  • Connect:Direct and Connect:Enterprise will go into maintenance mode.  And why not?!  Websphere MQ with FT is the future.
  • Gentran Server will be as important as Websphere Data Interchange, Mercator and all the other EDI translators.  Now which one do you need and when do I buy which?
  • The Sterling Integrator aka Business Integration Suite aka Gentran Integration Suite is legacy.  Make way for a hybrid suite of apps that have embedded integration functionality.  Think migration folks.
  • The Sterling Network is cool, but Sterling can’t and won’t beat GXS;  GXS has too much a head start, too much momentum and too big a footprint.

Frankly IBM was already a player in all these markets  and excluding the business applications the rest of the portfolio is headed to that same mystical place the runoff from acquired portfolios go.  The land of rounding errors.

Time to rethink proprietary protocols and vendor locked technologies.  Time to rethink the millions of dollars spent on MIPS and EDI Maps.  I’ll miss you Sterling but this is a good wake up call for the market consumer.

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