Enterprise Applications

Tibco, the Enterprise's IT Glue, Aims for Cloud Stickiness

For Tibco senior executives, the question must become tiresome, irksome and repetitive but, like the elephant on the table, it begs to be formally addressed. So, will Tibco, just about the last man standing as an independent, $1bn-revenue enterprise software company, be acquired by one of the giants? No, there’s nothing new to say there, is the short answer. And, question two, how can a mid-sized company compete against the gazillion-dollar software stacks of IBM, SAP, Oracle, Microsoft and the rest?

Murray Rode, Tibco COO, sees it another way, insisting that CIOs are tiring of the non-stop financial arbitrage that makes business software companies pawns to be shoved around in the mega-merger game, regardless of the effect that has on customer relationships, integration strategies, upgrade paths and so on.

“I think it’s swinging back and the shift has gone in the opposite direction,” he says when we meet recently at a user conference held by the Silicon Valley-based outfit. “Customers find it frustrating that they don’t have more choice and they like the fact that that we’re not an IBM or an Oracle. We’ve seen multiple generations of pure-play competitors come and go. Now there are few and the competition is the conglomerated software company.”

Modern organisations thrive on a blend of innovation and solidity, Rode says. This is surely true of most CIOs: they want platforms and a small-ish roster of suppliers but they don’t want lashed-together programs built on different software architectures and code bases nor aggressive vendors that have them at a disadvantage because so many corporate eggs are in their baskets.

Tibco has its own “platform play”, as Rode describes it, but it is not of the pile-it-high-and-sell-it-hard variety. Rather it’s an attempt to be a leader in integration and analytics, plus messaging and collaboration, thanks to the success of Tibbr, a sort of enterprise-ready equivalent to Twitter that has made Tibco suddenly quite trendy. 

That stack has been built in part organically and in part via acquisitions. The Spotfire business intelligence suite and Staffware for business process management were acquired, for example. But Rode says that, rather than integrating them into the stack in the classical approach it has instead deliberately kept Spotfire and the home-grown Tibbr as “distinct product groups that are deliberately left alone”.

The ‘Tibco’ name comes from ‘The Information Bus Company’ and the firm got its first big wins among Wall Street banks attempting to make sense of the spaghetti of platforms, applications, services and versions by creating a sort of software  Esperanto or glue that let system speak unto system.  However, Tibco’s eminence in this world is threatened by the looming of a very different world where cloud services might mean that the very complexity on which Tibco has threatened, will go away.

Tibco’s answer to this new era is Cloud Bus, a subscription-based approach that helps customers create integrations in the cloud. Rode, a former CFO and with the characteristic lack of flummery or spin in his public utterances of that role’s holders, says that he recognises the potential implications of this change of environment.

“Any market evolution opens up risks as regards staying relevant,” he says. “We’ve demonstrated the ability [to address this new world] at least. There’ll be a need to adapt out products but the cloud introduces a new cycle of business needs and new ways of consuming software but it’s too soon to know [exactly how this will play out].”

Again, Rode is surely right here: the history of business IT adoption suggests that major architectural changes occur over many years. Tibco’s glue will be needed for a while yet.


Martin Veitch is editorial director of IDG Connect


You can find Martin Veitch’s interview with Tibbr chief Ram Menon here.


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Martin Veitch

Martin Veitch is Contributing Editor for IDG Connect

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