Will Larry buy Switzerland?

Informatica’s acquisition of Identity Systems, which closed last Thursday, brought the data integration specialist even closer to Oracle. The two companies have had an odd relationship, with Informatica competing against the behemoth virtually since it opened its doors some 15 years ago. (Despite the fact that Oracle gives away its bare-bones Warehouse Builder, Informatica has been able to build up a business that rang up nearly $400m in sales last year, having grown revenue more than 20% for three straight years.)

Through its non-stop acquisitions, Oracle actually OEMs three bits of technology from Informatica, including the just-acquired Identity Systems. Mantas – an anti-money-laundering vendor acquired by Oracle’s i-flex solutions – includes the identity resolution technology from Identity Systems. (Informatica had older OEM arrangements with Hyperion Solutions and Siebel Systems, both of which were gobbled up by Oracle.)

Recently, rumors have been picking up that Oracle may be looking to own Informatica outright. Making such a move would dramatically strengthen Oracle’s data-quality offering, as well as beef up its semi-structured and unstructured data integration story. (Those are areas where IBM has a pretty solid portfolio.) Oracle has already made a small acquisition in this market, spending an estimated $45m on Sunopsis in October 2006. But it still trails the business that rival IBM has acquired through its purchases of Ascential Software and DataMirror.

Of course, one of Informatica’s main selling points is that it’s a neutral party and doesn’t push other applications. That pitch has resonated with customers. Last year, Informatica posted license revenue growth of 20%. Of course, that neutrality would be gone if Oracle gobbled up Informatica. However, Ellison and the rest of the sharp-penciled M&A group at Oracle are realists at the bottom line. Financially, it may be worthwhile for them to give up several hundred of Informatica’s 3,000 customers as a way to protect a database revenue stream. 

Selected data integration deals

Acquirer Target Announced Deal value
IBM Ascential March 2005 $1.1bn
IBM DataMirror July 2007 $162m
Oracle Sunopsis Oct. 2006 $45m*