Cloud deals arising from the fog

Contact: Ben Kolada

Going into the last day of the 9th Cloud Computing Expo, held in Santa Clara, California, we get the feeling that conference attendees will see an M&A shakeout within the next few years. To a degree, this dealmaking has already begun, with a small handful of exhibitors already having been scooped up, including a couple of firms that were acquired just last month. Meanwhile, the remaining vendors, most of whom are young startups, are scrapping to define and prove themselves for what they hope will someday be their own fruitful exits.

The cloud computing market is real and growing. My 451 Market Monitor colleagues, who have the tedious task of sizing the cloud market, estimate global cloud revenue (excluding SaaS) at $9.8 billion for 2011, with nearly 40% revenue growth expected in 2012. Many players in this sector have already taken note of its potential and acquirers’ interest, resulting in an increase in both deal sizes and deal volume for cloud vendors. According to The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase, so far this year a record 465 transactions claimed some aspect of cloud. That’s nearly double what we saw in the same period last year. (To be honest, many of these acquired companies are about as cloudy as snake oil, but there are real cloud deals being done. Platform Computing and Gluster, which both announced their sales last month, sold for an estimated combined deal value just shy of $450m.)

However, in terms of revenue, most of the cloud startups we spoke with haven’t yet really proven themselves commercially. But as these firms transition their focus from product development to marketing and sales, their growth will attract more and more suitors. And double-digit revenue isn’t exactly a requirement for a successful exit, as both the recent CloudSwitch and takeouts proved. Though we understand that none of these companies are looking to sell just yet, we wouldn’t be surprised if cloud-enablement providers such as OnApp, Abiquo and Nimbula are picked off one by one within the next few years. And we were reminded yet again that open source networking and routing vendor Vyatta could someday see a real offer from Dell, though the IT giant would likely face a competing bid from Cisco.

Big Blue’s recent shopping spree

Contact: Brenon Daly

After a slow start to the year, IBM has dramatically picked up the pace – and the spending – in its M&A program. Big Blue only announced its first deal of 2011 in late March, and then was out of the market for nearly a half-year. But in the past two months alone, it has announced four deals. And each of the purchases, according to our estimates, was valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Since late August, IBM has acquired analytics and visualization software vendor i2 Group, an analytics firm focused on financial services called Algorithmics, security management specialist Q1 Labs, and – just last week – HPC pioneer Platform Computing. Although IBM only released the value of one of those transactions, we estimate the collective tab on the two-month shopping spree is in the neighborhood of $1.5bn.

The purchases come as IBM shares have been trading around their highest-ever levels. So far this year, Big Blue stock has tacked on some 27%, while the Nasdaq Index has basically flat-lined. IBM will give its latest check-up to Wall Street after the closing bell today, with investors looking for third-quarter earnings of about $3.22 per share on sales of some $26.3bn. Ahead of the release, the stock was trading in-line with the broad market.