There was an announcement from IBM recently that has an impact for many ITAM groups – IBM is selling off several product families from its software portfolio. The items mentioned include several significant product lines and long-time members of the IBM family:

  • Appscan for secure application development,
  • BigFix for secure device management,
  • Unica (on-premise) for marketing automation,
  • Commerce (on-premise) for omni-channel eCommerce,
  • Portal (on-premise) for digital experience,
  • Notes & Domino for email and low-code rapid application development, and
  • Connections for workstream collaboration.

This is not the first time that IBM has divested software from its portfolio. Starting in 2014, IBM sold several Rational-branded product sets to a company called UNICOM Global, including Rational PurifyPlus and Rational System Architect. This current set of product divestitures is to HCL Technology – a company based out of India. This is not the first time they have sold products to HCL, though. They had previously sold some Rational development and Mainframe tools to them and had an engineering/support agreement in place for others.

Is it a surprise that IBM is divesting products? Not necessarily – each year there are a number of acquisitions, mergers and divestures in the software industry, and IBM themselves announced the intent to acquire RedHat only a few weeks ago. To survive in business as long as IBM has, companies need to evolve. IBM has transitioned from a hardware company to a software company, and now is transitioning again.

So why is this of interest to those of us in the IT Asset Management industry? There are two main reasons that organizations may be unsettled:

  1. Products purchased and supported by IBM will now require working with a completely new business entity.
  2. For IBM sub-capacity licensing, BigFix and ILMT are a requirement. What happens now that the BigFix family is being sold?
#1 may be a concern for some companies; those who bought products as part of a larger IBM contract potentially could find their buying power reduced due to smaller contracts/maintenance, and facing uncertainty with regard to the newer company. Will they change product roadmaps? Will they be able to provide the same level of support? Will they change metrics or increase costs? One would hope that some assurances were required as part of the negotiation but, ultimately, only time will tell.

#2 could have a big impact, but at the moment there is little information available – there are just a lot of questions. The main ones being can IBM continue to require customers use BigFix/ILMT for sub-capacity, if it effectively becomes a 3rd party product? And would it remain free? It sounds challenging to enforce that way, and I’m sure there would be an uproar if there was a cost associated with it, but what is the alternative – new metrics? That seems even more unlikely.

The transaction is not expected to complete until Q2 2019, so we will continue to monitor this transaction and dig into the details as more information becomes available. Is your organization concerned? Does the divestiture of any of these product lines impact you? Please let us know your thoughts.