IBM buys Vivisimo for Big Data analysis

But one analyst wonders if it's a good match

Last week IBM (NYSE: IBM) bought enterprise search vendor Vivisimo, taking yet another independent search tool off the market. On its face at least, the purchase appeared to be about providing a search tool for IBM's Big Data product line.

In a statement, Arvind Krishna, general manager for Information Management at the IBM Software Group, left little doubt about the purpose of this purchase. "The winners in the era of big data will be those who unlock their information assets to drive innovation, make real-time decisions, and gain actionable insights to be more competitive," Krishna said.

Louis Tetu, CEO of Coveo, one of the few remaining independent search tools sees this deal as further validation of the importance of search tools in the age of Big Data. 

"The ongoing string of acquisitions in this space shows just how important the marketplace views solutions that generate insight from the vast streams of structured and unstructured data stored in enterprises, in social media, and more and more often, in the cloud," he said.

He added, "Vendors such as Oracle, Microsoft, HP and IBM all see these solutions as critical to their ability to help organizations with big data."

But Tetu warns that too often these solutions tend to focus on the parent company's technology and he says (somewhat self-serving, for sure) that there remains a high value for technology-agnostic solutions.

Analyst Matt Mullen, who covers search for the Real Story Group isn't sure what IBM is trying to do with this purchase. He says, on the surface it appears to be about Big Data, but when you read the release carefully, there is something else.

"On the face of it, what IBM has done is acquire a nice bit of technology that has proven to be pretty good at federated search. This is in itself not really that big a news story, until you factor in the bracketing of this as being related to buzzword du jour: 'Big Data,'" Mullen said.

But Mullen later says he sees IBM using the technology to cull smaller data sets, which is a bit confusing.

"While I understand this process, it leads me to still have a couple of questions about this strategy; Isn't the point of Big Data that it purports to allow you to analyze data sets at a magnitude that wasn't previously possible? [Yet] Vivisimo is to be employed to build reduced data sets prior to Big Data analysis? Has IBM just invented 'Slightly Smaller (and maybe better quality) Data'?" Mullen asked.

And further, Mullen wonders why buy a straight search tool to deal with data analysis at all, when content analytics tools might be more appropriate.

While it seems like a good buy for IBM at first glance, there are many open questions here, not the least of which is how well IBM will be able to take this tool and make it work across the IBM family of solutions. But for better or worse, Vivisimo is now part of the IBM family and we'll have to see how well this works over the next year or so.

For more information:
- see the IBM press release

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