IBM buys Toronto’s Platform Computing

Songnian Zhou, CEO of Platform Computing

IBM has announced plans to acquire Toronto’s Platform Computing in a move that will make the grid computing company’s wares more broadly available through IBM’s community of business partners.

In a press conference announcing the deal, Brian Connors, vice president of technical computing at IBM, called adding Platform to the IBM family “a key part” of the company’s all-encompassing Smarter Planet strategy going forward.

“They have a proven and sustained record of innovation in technology, and are widely views as the systems platform of choice to optimize deployments of complex applications and workloads,” Connors said.

The availability of processing power and the ability to harness cheap processing in a grid to tackle larger problems is key to addressing getting value out of “big data,” the growing masses of unstructured information that’s seen as a challenge for most enterprises and even midsize businesses.

“To outcompete today, one needs to outcompute,” said Songnian Zhou, CEO of Platform.

Big Blue notes that IDC calls the combined opportunity for servers, storage and systems software in the technical computing realm is worth $14 billion this year and is expected to grow at an eight per cent clip to reach $18.5 billion by 2014. Overall, IBM’s stated goals for Smarter Planet include reaching $10 billion in revenues for IBM by 2015.

Connors said Platform as “a very strong partner network” and goes to market both direct and through channels. Partners include VARs, ISVs and OEMs, and that the goal is “to preserve as many of those as possible, if not all of them.” At the same time, partners will be welcomed to join the broader community of IBM business partners, including invitations to its PartnerWorld events. The company will also work to make Platforms wares more readily available to traditional IBM business partners.

“This opens up a set of opportunities for our partners”, Connors said.

There is a fait bit of commonality amongst partner bases for the two companies, Zho said, particularly in the ISV space.

Platform supports a variety of systems in its grid arrays, which includes but is not exclusive to IBM’s Power- and x86-based offerings. Zhou stressed that becoming an IBM company doesn’t mean other OEM partners will be left in the dark. In fact, he suggested, the company would look to “accelerate its support” of platforms, “including competitors.”

“Co-opetition is just the nature of business now and it’s clearly our intent to ensure support of what Platform is doing and will do in a heterogeneous industry,” Connors said.

The deal is expected to close by the end of the year, at which time Platform will remain a separate organization as an IBM company. The company intends to retain all of its Toronto-based employees, and Zhou will remain on to lead Platform under the IBM umbrella, and the business will fall under IBM’s Systems and Technology group.

Zhou joked that the transition would be aided by the fact that Platform’s Markham, Ont. headquarters is “a few hundred meters” from both Big Blue’s main campus on Steeles Ave. in Markham and its Software Lab nearby.