It would not be unfair for many readers to see the news of a grand coming together of Citrix and TIBCO as a late-in-life marriage of two of the old stalwarts of global IT, seeking mutual comfort in their approaching dotage. The presence of an equity management company like Vista as part of the mix adds to the image, taking up the role of care home manager looking after the best interests of two venerable names from the past.
OK, that’s enough snide glibness, because my own suspicions about this merger – and I think it will be a proper melding of the best interests and capabilities from the two companies – are that it could mark a new stage in the development of IT. This could see the start of the era of `IE’ – Information Exploitation – which will emerge as the prominence of the long-standing `T’ starts to fade away.
There is sense to this process in two ways. The first has to do with Vista Equity Partners and Evergreen Coast Capital and their interests in TIBCO and Citrix respectively. Despite some equity management companies giving the trade a bad name, their role in the software market has become important. The rate, and level of change that has gone on in software over the last 20 years has been dramatic and quick, and both of those are rarely to the liking of stock market players.
This has meant that successful software vendors, having put themselves onto the public stock markets, have found themselves suddenly threatened by stock market activity based on investors’ lack of knowledge and understanding of the changes occurring in the marketplace. With TIBCO, for example, the move away from upfront licence sales to recurring annuity revenue generation was enough to scare stock markets, which gave Vista the impetus to acquire TIBCO in 2014. A similar story can be told about Citrix and Evergreen.
It is a fair bet that the lack of stock market investor understanding, often geared to their constant need for short term financial gains, would have brought this new merger to its knees before it ever got off the ground if both parties were still publicly traded. The advantage that equity management involvement can bring is both the financial resources and the space in which a business can make significant, even radical re-adjustments to its operations and offerings in an environment that allows more space and time for the process to occur without having to face the wrath of stock traders if the next quarter’s results take a temporary hit.
The changing workplace
The second sense to this process springs directly out of the first, and is identified by TIBCO CEO, Dan Streetman, in a statement quoted in the formal announcement of the merger:
“The workplace has changed forever, and companies everywhere will require real-time access to faster, smarter insights from the increasingly large volumes of data available to them, their employees, and their ecosystems.”
The key words here are not `smarter insights - every software vendor in the known universe now claims to provide smarter insights, and many of them achieve that with Citrix and TIBCO no slouches in that department. The key here, however is ‘real time access’. Again, many vendors will be able to provide that, but at what scale? The trouble now is that users are starting to require access to a far wider range of data sources and types, from both within and without the confines of the user’s campus, if they are going to be able to generate the smartest of smarter insights that their business planning and management is going to require. Then there is ability to execute on those insights at the fastest appropriate speed that might be needed.
This is now the world of SDEAA (Software-Defined Everything And Anything), and if that is going to be of any value it increasingly has to operate end-to-end across the widest extremities of the network. And that network is going to stretch beyond the range of the company campus and into the networks of other companies – business partners, service providers and even customers themselves. So the ends are getting ever further apart, not only in length of network but also in the breadth, complexity and granularity.
The reason for this is everybody and anybody working with or for a business now needs access to at least some of the data that all participant companies in a project hold. This means, potentially, that a vast array of individuals may need access, in real time, to data that could be held in a large array of data siloes owned by a range of participating companies and organizations. It is also likely that it cannot always be decided in advance what data any of those individuals can or cannot see. This runs counter to the traditional structures of IT since its time began, for the data siloes need to be opened up, at least logically, and the data and its distribution then properly and securely managed at high levels of granularity, and in real time.
Be gone, end-(lots of specialist engineering)-end
This type of use case, which can be expected to be widely found across all market sectors, highlights the fundamental divide that has beset IT deployments over the years; the two levels of underpinning systems infrastructure, and overlaying end-user work and interaction environment. These have tended to remain two disparate specialisms, where end-to-end integration has, in practice, tended to be more ‘end-(lots of specialist engineering)-end’ for most users. Indeed, it is an area where many systems integrator businesses have made a steady living.
TIBCO does the deep enterprise connection/integration stuff – and can reach out to the edge now, giving a real end-to-end, API-managed, integration capability across an infrastructure. Citrix provides comparable capabilities across enterprise operations, and its long-standing association with Virtual Desktop Integration is an added advantage. While VDI has an uninspiring applications history – often seen as only good for mundane and repetitive workloads – the data delivery technologies of the Cloud have grown up to the point where VDI can now provide a fast, flexible, secure and full desktop environment for staff, wherever they happen to be working.
If Vista and Evergreen can get the two companies to engineer a real join between those two major technology siloes and agglomerations of data and applications siloes, it could work well. It has to be acknowledged that this will be a big ask in defining and organizing the many technical joins between the pair, finding the weak points and technology holes, and ironing out the overlaps. It is likely to be an equally big ask in terms of melding the two managements. That doesn’t mean it can’t be done, however, and the prize for success could be significant.
There is the possibility, at the very least, of becoming one of the key platforms on which all business are based, and as both have now gone through the transition from licence-sale to annuity-based recurring revenue business models for more than 90% of their revenue streams, they are both well-placed to offer much, if not all, of such a business foundation. And they will be in a position to offer as much or as little an any business will need, on a pay-for-what-you-use basis.
This could also then really open up the market for the value-added services channel – from the global Systems Integrators through to the other extreme of the one-person, ‘how-niche-could-you-possibly-be?’, consultancy. In either case, having such a platform available will provide them with the opportunity to become service brokers, pulling together services, tools, functionality etc that builds the specific business/operational process that a customer of any size might ever need, available on a consistent, end-to-end platform that packages up and owns all the current engineering glue so many businesses still need to undertake.