IBM’s Toronto Labs Turns 40, DataMirror Shareholders OK IBM Deal
September 4, 2007 Timothy Prickett Morgan
This month, IBM‘s Toronto Software Labs are celebrating its 40th birthday, and looking forward to adding some technologies and people from DataMirror, a maker of high availability and data transformation software that is going to plug right into IBM’s Canadian software development operations.
There has always been a competitive relationship between the various IBM labs around the world, and there has definitely been a lot of give and take and push and pull over the years between IBM’s Rochester Labs, where the System/3X, AS/400, iSeries, and System i product lines came to market, and the Toronto Software Labs, where IBM creates compilers, databases, application servers, and other software. Most of the time, this is good for both IBM and its customers.
The Toronto Software Labs were established in 1967 with 55 people. They worked on a number of products, including an online banking system and something called the “Maintenance Device,” which I have never heard of but which IBM claims is the first portable computer ever put inside an attaché case. (It was used by IBM certified engineers to plug into IBM systems and do maintenance tests on them; you can buy one online at this site if you like collecting odd computing devices. This particular model, from the mid-1980s, was used to plug into IBM’s 3380 mainframe disk drives. It is funny to think that an iPod today has more oomph and capacity than a 3380 disk did back in the 1980s. Here is an IBM brochure on the device, which shows that IBM is using the term attaché liberally.)
Today, the Toronto Software Labs have 2,500 employees and is the largest software development organization in Canada; it is also IBM’s fourth largest software labs. IBM has a total of 60 research and development labs around the world, doing hardware, software, and services work, with a total of 28,000 researchers, developers, and engineers. And, thanks to former IBM chairman Louis Gerstner’s insistence that nerds talk to people and IBM make products that solve real problems and generate real money, about 20 percent of the lab workers have direct engagements with IBM’s customers. In 2006, IBM said that the worldwide lab population had more than 10,000 engagements with customers, up 55 percent from 2005. It is a fair bet that the number for 2007 will grow, particularly given IBM’s desire to push services oriented architecture (SOA) application development.
DataMirror held a special meeting of its shareholders on August 24 to vote to accept or reject IBM’s $27 per share takeover of DataMirror. Representatives holding 74.7 percent of the outstanding shares of DataMirror attended the meeting, and 99.7 percent of those shares voted to approve the $161 million takeover deal, which IBM launched in mid-July. IBM and DataMirror were expecting for the Canadian courts to approve the takeover on August 27, and that the deal would be finalized about a week later. Which means right about now. The 220 employees of DataMirror will be absorbed into the Toronto Labs, and IBM plans to use the DataMirror facilities as a center of excellence for data replication and change data capture technologies.