Chalk up another EMM vendor acquisition: IBM bought Fiberlink. Here’s our take.

For a few years now, the constant refrain about the enterprise mobility management space has been that with so many vendors, it's ripe for consolidation. So it shouldn't be too much of a shock that yesterday we learned that IBM is buying Fiberlink, makers of the MaaS360 EMM suite.

For a few years now, the constant refrain about the enterprise mobility management space has been that with so many vendors, it’s ripe for consolidation. So it shouldn’t be too much of a shock that yesterday we learned that IBM is buying Fiberlink, makers of the MaaS360 EMM suite.

IBM’s recent mobility efforts have centered around a suite of products called MobileFirst. I’m actually not too familiar with it, but according to the website it has all sorts of components, including development and planning services, analytics, security, and basic mobile device management through IBM Endpoint Manager for Mobile Devices (which came with the BigFix acquisition in 2010).

By acquiring Fiberlink, IBM is getting a wider set of mobile device and app management capabilities. Fiberlink may have a slightly lower profile than the likes of AirWatch and MobileIron, but they bring a fairly complete package none the less. For MDM, Fiberlink support iOS, Android (including a range of custom versions of Android), Windows Phone, Symbian, Mac OS, and Windows. For mobile app management, they have apps for email, browsing, and file syncing, along with a MAM SDK and app wrapping tool.

The question is now that Fiberlink will be part of IBM, will it become a product that only IBM-centric companies buy? IBM touted planned integration with the rest of its products, and as Gabe said earlier this week, “There are two types of companies in the world, those that love IBM and those that stay the hell away from them.” If that’s the case, Fiberlink could lose some visibility among the non-IBM crowd, but on the other hand as a part of the IBM, Fiberlink’s technology could now be put in front of thousands of new customers that might not have considered it before.

There’s also the fear that “IBM is where companies go to die,” but looking at other recent EMM acquisitions, most of the acquiring companies (Citrix and Symantec, for example) are putting a lot of work into their offerings, a necessity in the still young and fast-moving EMM space.

Surely IBM buying Fiberlink will set off another round of matchmaking speculation for other EMM vendors (AirWatch and MobileIron will top that list, of course), so get ready for that, too.

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I thought I'd share my perspective having left IBM 5 months ago. I was acquired into IBM in 2010 via the BigFix acquisition you referenced. My most recent role there was in Product Management in the MobileFirst organization, and prior to that I was on the BigFix PM team and owned the MDM offering.

While the process of integrating an acquired company is challenging and unique to each instance, my experience with the BigFix integration into IBM was a positive one. Big-company overhead was certainly frustrating at times, but IBM invested quite heavily in R&D to help accelerate the BigFix roadmap, and the marketing and sales reach they provided helped us to significantly increase our market footprint (awareness and customer base).

I expect that with the priority IBM is placing on enterprise mobility, they will likely invest quite heavily in accelerating the Fiberlink roadmap, as well as on integrating it with complementary solutions, such as Worklight, their mobile app development platform, and BigFix. They also have some popular enterprise apps, such as Connections, Cognos, and Traveler, that they could integrate such that they could be managed and secured easily by Fiberlink's MAM solution.

Interestingly, Fiberlink and BigFix (and later IBM) have been partners since ~2004, when Fiberlink started delivering BigFix as a SaaS offering. Fiberlink's SaaS expertise and long-standing partnership with IBM/BigFix will (hopefully) provide renewed momentum for BigFix, and an opportunity for IBM to build a pretty strong unified management solution (across PCs and mobile devices), delivered on- or off-premises.

Lastly, as you noted, Fiberlink has a pretty broad portfolio of EMM capabilities, but a lower profile relative to the other leaders in the space. IBM will definitely be able to help in this regard.

All that said, the integration process is fraught with risks -- hopefully this one goes as well for IBM as the BigFix one did.


Certainly interesting in where IBM will take this with BigFix which works well and Worklight.

The fact that IBM is now in the Gartner MQ for MDM plus another mobile product areas will be considered favourably by many clients.  It's a safer option than an MDM only firm that will probably not be around in a few years to come.