Once again this year, the holiday season brought forth yet another crop of year-end acquisitions. In the world of management, one of these was among the most significant of 2005: the acquisition of Micromuse by IBM, for approximately $865 million in cash.This acquisition cannot be seen as anything but strategic for IBM, since it closes multiple gaps in the company\u2019s important IT Service Management (ITSM) strategy. It brings a combination of service, availability and security management founded on a strong base of visibility into the network - a base which IBM had lacked, yet which must be seen as critical to ITSM success.There are overlaps resulting from this deal, not only with Tivoli NetView, but also in areas of application and business service management. However, these are offset by Micromuse\u2019s richer network depth in these areas, which the IBM portfolio had not until now embraced. Viewed in that light, Tivoli and Micromuse solutions are fairly complementary, finally giving IBM\u2019s ITSM strategy a comprehensive view of the entire IT environment.This highlights the strategic importance of ITSM to IBM. IT is increasingly gravitating towards more of a focus on service-delivering applications. This is leading the network to become much more application-oriented, but it is also bringing applications into tighter integration and dependency on network resources. This has substantially blurred distinctions between the boundaries of networks, systems, applications, and supporting components. Without a high degree of visibility into all these aspects, a strategy for IT service delivery in such environments is significantly hampered.Micromuse will help give IBM much stronger comprehensive positioning not only against BMC and Mercury by taking Micromuse off the table, but also against HP in an arena in which HP has long been dominant, and against CA since the Concord acquisition.It also makes for a curious paradox in IBM\u2019s positioning with respect to Cisco. On one hand, Cisco must be seen as a competitor to IBM, given Cisco\u2019s own high-visibility Application Oriented Networking (AON) initiative. On the other, however, not only is IBM a highly visible AON supporter, it will have in Micromuse a Cisco partner that will bring IBM even closer to the network giant across domains beyond application networking. The outcomes of creative tension arising from these seemingly conflicting \u201ccoop-etitive\u201d forces will be interesting to watch.An additional area in which Micromuse fills an IBM gap is in IT risk management. Earlier this year, Micromuse augmented its security information and event management (SIEM) offering with the acquisition of GuardedNet. The absence of a seriously competitive IT risk management console in the Tivoli portfolio seemed to be at variance with a particularly important aspect of ITSM\u2019s configuration management focus: maintaining a secure IT configuration consistent with regulatory compliance. With the Micromuse-GuardedNet combination, IBM has now closed this gap, albeit with resources that still have a ways to go in competing with SIEM leaders such as ArcSight and Intellitactics in terms of scalability and correlation, as well as with Cisco\u2019s own SIEM solutions, in partnership with netForensics. This suggests that BMC may begin to look more seriously at its productive partnership with Consul in this area as well.