IBM Exits EA Tool Market Through Sale of Rational System Architect to Unicom

Archived Published: 07 January 2016 ID: G00297132


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IBM's sale of its Rational System Architect business to Unicom Systems and Unicom’s lack of clear communications regarding its plans for SA will require SA customers to decide on a course of action.

News Analysis


On 31 December 2015, California-based Unicom Systems announced that it has acquired the Rational System Architect (SA) business from IBM. Although Unicom has not provided specific details of its future plans and roadmap for SA, IBM has told Gartner that, as part of the acquisition, all staff associated with SA development, product management and support have moved to Unicom.


IBM's decision to sell its SA product line is unsurprising: The company recently has sold off several noncore products. Unicom has acquired SA while IBM was in the middle of a multiyear revedelopment of the product line, aimed at transforming SA back into an enterprise architecture (EA) market leader. IBM has been marketing SA both as an EA tool and as a participant in the IBM DevOps solution.

Unicom's lack of a track record in the EA tool market means the firm faces a steep learning curve, which is likely to slow development while Unicom takes stock. Also worth noting is that the announcement did not focus on how Unicom will serve SA customers; rather, it promoted the deal as Unicom's seventh acquisition from IBM over the past two years. Unicom has told Gartner that it plans to invite SA customers to attend the Unicom customer advisory board and user group meeting in March 2016 to learn more about its future plans and intentions for SA.

Gartner believes that customers might have been better served if IBM had sold SA to an established player in the EA market. In the highly specialized EA tool market, previous sales of EA tools to non-EA vendors have not fared well according to some customers’ perspective. One of the largest single customer segments this deal will affect is the U.S. federal market, in which SA has long been the dominant player. These customers will have fewer alternatives to consider because they require an equivalent framework of support in any alternative tool (for example, the Department of Defense Architecture Framework, the Treasury Enterprise Architecture Framework and the Federal Enterprise Architecture Framework).

Unless Unicom quickly demonstrates significant commitment to the product, its customers and the market, Gartner believes that current and prospective SA customers should re-evaluate their EA tooling needs and assess alternative tool vendors. Competitors are likely to offer competitive upgrades, and the market for third-party migration tools, such those offered by Reischmann Informatik and TransWare, will heat up. Gartner had already predicted that the overall market for EA tools would accelerate as customers sought to switch tools.


Current SA customers:

  • Hold onto your investment and closely track any announcements from Unicom.

  • Review current contracts to understand the implications of this deal for terms and conditions, particularly to ensure that you are protected if maintenance fees increase.

  • Prepare backup alternatives and migration plans as a contingency.

  • If you are currently using SA on a software as a service (SaaS) basis through Corso or Cloud One, determine whether any contract changes might impact their ability to continue with this offering.

  • If you are in need of SA consulting services, evaluate Corso, which is composed of former Popkin/IBM SA experts, as a potential alternative.

Prospective SA customers:

  • If SA solutions are on your shortlist, consider moving them toward the bottom of your list until you obtain clarity regarding future plans for the product and Unicom's ability to support it.

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