Intalio planning '8 to 10' open-source acquisitions

The business process management specialist wants to go on a buying binge, but it's an open question as to whether it can stomach so many new acquisitions.

When I commented on The 451 Group's report on open-source mergers and acquisitions in 2009, this is not what I was thinking:

Open-source BPM (business process management) vendor Intalio turns 10 this year and is looking to celebrate by raising the funds necessary to finance a spending spree to acquire 8 to 10 open source vendors.

Intalio buying open-source companies? Well, they'd have to be really small, as Intalio is itself still somewhat small, earning less than $50 million in revenue (likely much less, but I'm not privy to its revenue data).

"Small," however, is part of the plan. Intalio is looking to acquire companies with fewer than 25 employees, an "active user base," and a "committed customer base." In other words, it may well be looking to go the JBoss route and grow big by buying small.

It worked for JBoss, right?

We'll see if Intalio can pull it off. I'm not a big fan of growth-through-acquisition, having experienced its negative effects at embedded-Linux vendor Lineo. We acquired seven companies (Rt-control, FirePlug, Zentropix, Moreton Bay, etc.), and never managed to digest the headcount, differing product directions, and other baggage that came with each one.

It's one thing for a Cisco Systems or Oracle to swallow a bundle of companies. They are staffed to do it, and have solid game plans for how to manage the integration of staff and products. But I suspect that it will be much more difficult for a small vendor like Intalio to successfully assimilate up to 10 new companies. Should be interesting to watch.

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