IBM Escalates The DevOps War With UrbanCode Acquisition

Forrester’s Glenn O’Donnell sheds light on the IBM-UrbanCode deal and what it means for the future trajectory of the DevOps movement.
Written by Forrester Research, Contributor

On Monday, April 22, IBM announced it acquired UrbanCode, a small but exciting vendor based in Cleveland, OH that is focused on improving various aspects of the application lifecycle. Both IBM and UrbanCode have been increasing their marketing rhetoric to position themselves in the rapidly expanding DevOps market. On this same day, CA Technologies - at its CA World conference in Las Vegas - was loudly proclaiming its own DevOps capabilities, springboarding off its own recent acquisition of Nolio

The IBM-UrbanCode deal has already closed. Financial details were not disclosed, though the purchase price is inconsequential in the huge scale of IBM's finances.

Forrester holds UrbanCode's capabilities in high esteem, so this is a great technology addition to the IBM war chest. Assimilating UrbanCode into the IBM machinery will be relatively straightforward, but reconciling the product overlaps and integrating the various technologies will not. We expect true integration in the form of a complete and integrated IBM suite across the lifecycle to take well over a year and maybe two. Overlapping Rational tools will be combined with or migrated over this period to UrbanCode's equivalent capabilities.

The DevOps movement is gaining steam at an aggressive pace. Forrester client inquiries focused on DevOps through 2012 and 2013 have been rapidly increasing, whereas such discussions were almost dead silent prior to 2012. After years of Development and Operations standing on either side of a wall lobbing things at one another, the walls are breaking down as Dev and Ops are discovering that they are (or need to be) on the same side. There is no "us" and "them" anymore, just us!

While Dev and Ops have distinct perspectives and historical trajectories, the need to drive rapid innovation and creation of business value going forward is bringing these two historical adversaries together. With Agile being largely mainstream in leading development organizations now, the focus is shifting toward the bottleneck that occurs when agile delivery hits the production change management process. Today's announcement validates that this area is heating up and will be of great interest to every organization looking to improve its ability to respond rapidly to new market opportunities. 

UrbanCode's model-based automation is a great approach that will be helpful beyond just application development and deployent. One example of the extended possibilities is in broader automation in other IBM initiatives like cloud computing and its PureSystems converged infrastructure offerings. The emerging software-defined data center (SDDC) vision has merit and is a logical beneficiary of DevOps principles and the associated technologies. After all, software is software, and systems software (e.g., underlying SDDC mechanisms) should be treated just like application software in its lifecycle. The primary difference is the pace and level of human intervention. System software is actually a perfect use for this level of extreme automation. Human intervention must be non-existent in SDDC and cloud platforms.

There is a notable link between Serena Software and UrbanCode. Already a key player in application lifecycle management, Serena is a credible DevOps force. Serena wisely purchased source code and its rights from UrbanCode a year ago, developed more upon it, and folded it into its release management offering. Forrester sees no risk to Serena's DevOps future as a result of IBM's acquisition. In fact, in a bold move to steal some of IBM's thunder, Serena made its own DevOps announcement the following day.

UrbanCode now resides within the Rational business unit. In the true spirit of DevOps, IBM needs to infuse the UrbanCode DNA well beyond Rational, especially into the Tivoli and PureSystems units.

Forrester analysts Kurt BittnerTom GrantJeffrey HammondDiego Lo GiudiceGlenn O'Donnell, and John Rymer collaborated on this article, in true DevOps fashion!

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