IBM grabs Think Dynamics

IBM Wednesday announced it had closed a deal to acquire Think Dynamics, a Toronto-based maker of automated server provisioning software. Think Dynamics’ technology and staff will immediately be integrated into Big Blue’s management software division Tivoli. The financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

In a conference call Wednesday morning, Tivoli General Manager Robert LeBlanc discussed how Think Dynamics technology will add automated provisioning technology to IBM’s eServer, eSourcing and On-Demand initiatives.

“Think Dynamics policy-based orchestration will help provide that level of automation to change or adapt resources to accommodate the peaks and valleys of the business,” LeBlanc said. “We will provide dynamic sense-and-respond capabilities that will enable customers to link IT and business and align the two in an automated way.”

LeBlanc also detailed Think Dynamics’ used of open standards such as Web services, grid computing and J2EE. He says the software will let customers work with their existing infrastructure while still adding automated provisioning capabilities from IBM. The comment follows news from IBM competitor Computer Associates, which two weeks ago announced its own on-demand initiative, claiming it would be the heterogeneous software provider among proprietary products from companies such as IBM.

Think Dynamics will add another step toward IBM’s utility computing goals, which includes intelligent hardware and automated software that could potentially heal, protect, provision and manage without much human intervention. Think Dynamics’ primary product offering, Think Control Suite, creates a pool of server resources and uses policies to automate provisioning of those resources to meet unexpected demand shifts.

Jasmine Noel, principal at research firm JNoel Associates, says IBM bought Think Dynamics to round out its server virtualization portfolio. The company today has capabilities to virtualize servers, but she says Think Dynamics will add a critical component: dynamic alignment of IT resources with business requirements.

“Truly dynamic solutions must incorporate real-time feedback loops capable of allocating infrastructure on a dynamic basis in response to changing patterns of utilization,” Noel says. “The feedback loop is what Think Dynamics is bringing to the IBM table.”

The policy-based management approach enables customers to define policies and rules based on the specific requirements of their business. The technology could then take automated actions based on business need to re-allocate resources across servers, databases, storage devices, network devices, applications and end users.

Noel goes on to say that Tivoli should be aware of potential pitfalls in distinguishing its current products that provide software distribution, inventory and configuration management from the Think Dynamics technology. Still, the two perform different tasks, and aside from a few server virtualization features there is not much product overlap from this acquisition, she says. Tivoli recently announced its Autonomic Engine software, which enables customers to build automation into their environment based on specific applications and the supporting infrastructure.

While integration will be required between Tivoli monitoring tools and Think Dynamics’ modeling engine, Noel says she doesn’t anticipate the task to be too cumbersome.

In terms of competition, IBM is keeping up by adding policy-based management capabilities based on server virtualization as HP, Sun and Microsoft offer those features in their software. CA will continue to compete with IBM in policy-based resource management and Tivoli in software distribution and inventory management. But while the big vendors continue to fill out their product portfolios with more features needed to complete a utility computing offering, Noel says the niche players, such as Think Dynamics and Jareva (acquired last year by Veritas), will be absorbed.

“Things are going to get tougher for the remaining independent, pure-play virtualization vendors now that all the larger server software vendors have bought someone,” Noel says.

IBM will continue to sell Think Dynamics’ products individually and will integrate the technology across its divisions. Branding has yet to be decided.

Think Dynamics CEO Alan McMillan confirmed that 100% of the employees at his company will move to IBM’s lab in Toronto. McMillan will continue with the company until the transition is complete, but following that he expects to move on. Another 100 jobs will also be created at IBM’s Toronto location.

This acquisition follows many for IBM in the past 18 months. The company acquired Holosofx for its storage resources, Access 360 for security management and more recently Rational for application development.

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