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Welcome Back Tibco!

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No apologies for the headline. It’s not meant to suggest any favoritism towards the company, but rather to signal my delight that the low-latency messaging space is about to get even more competitive. And that’s going to drive down both latencies and the cost of messaging systems. All good stuff, methinks. But my excitement is not just because the low-latency market is hotting up …. it’s because a company that I’ve followed since I began writing about financial technology in the late 1980s is back, and looking for a fight. Those kind of market dynamics make my job more interesting, and hopefully that’s the case for the low-latency.com community too.

To clarify: Tibco has just formally released its FTL – Faster Than Light – messaging product, aimed squarely at the (some say ultra, some say extreme) low-latency space that’s currently occupied by IBM (with its WebSphere MQ Low-Latency Messaging), Informatica (29West as once was), NYSE Technologies (Wombat as once was) and Solace Systems (Tibco’s partner for its P-7500 messaging appliance).

The company has already provided a few performance figures that puts it well in the game, and more are expected when the white coats at STAC complete their investigations. Expect the performance leap-frogging to continue for some time. And, on a personal note, can we stop using 16-byte messages in performance tests? On the commercial side, the comment from one Tibco exec that the company “does not intend to lose a deal for want of competitive pricing,” should get its rivals revisiting their rate cards, with a red pen.

For a company whose pricing mantra was set in its earliest days by “n * Mohan units” (named after its first sales head Indra Mohan) of $1 million each, it shows a certain resolve to win. While Tibco is new to this ultra (there, I said it) low-latency segment, it has a very long history – pedigree if you will – in messaging, which makes it a formidable entrant.

A quick, simplified, history: 1986 – Founded as Teknekron Software Systems by Vivek Ranadive and John Mathon, offering the Teknekron Information Bus. Early deals at Fidelity and Salomon Brothers put it well on the map of incumbents like Reuters and Micrognosis in the market data distribution space. Many more wins followed and the company’s Rendezvous successor to the TIB was very widely adopted, to the dismay of its competitors.

1993 – Reuters decided if it could not beat it, then buy it. Which it did with a $125 million Christmas present – plus apparently around the same sum as an earn-out about a year later. Reuters melded Rendezvous with its own Triarch 2000 product to create RMDS, aimed at market data delivery across trading rooms. It’s still around now, though lord knows what it’s called.

1997 – Tibco (The Information Bus Company) was spun out of Reuters to promote its technology to the non financial services world. Tibco Software was listed on Nasdaq in 1999.

Many people made lots of money, though the Dot com bust spoiled the party for some. In the following years, Tibco acquired or developed an array of products, for enterprise messaging, Web Services and SOA, Business Process Management, Complex Event Processing and Business Analytics.

2004 – A non-compete between Reuters and Tibco was modified to allow the latter to sell its expanded product set into the financial services space. Initially that didn’t include real-time market data applications, but somewhere along the way, that restriction was lifted.

And, meanwhile: 1992 – Former Triarch guru at Reuters, Guy Tagliavia, founded InfoDyne, providing high performance messaging. InfoDyne was acquired by IBM in 2008, and its technology is now part of IBM’s LLM offering.

1997 – Former Teknekron executive Ron Verstappen founded Wombat Financial Software, producing data feed handlers for low-latency feeds. It forged a successful alliance with 29West, but was then acquired by NYSE Euronext in 2008, for some $200 million.

2002 – Rival messaging vendor Talarian was acquired by Tibco. Talarian founder Mark Mahowald departed and went on to found 29West, which was acquired by Informatica in 2010.

So, while Tibco-ers point to the “messaging in their DNA,” their competitors are hardly startups in the technology. And hence success – domination is Tibco’s stated goal – is likely going to be down to execution of marketing, sales and deployment plans.

Whether 29West under its new ownership will continue to flourish in its traditional business remains to be seen. Questions are already being whispered about direction and commitment, and only walking the walk will dispel those. For the NYSE, with many internal and embedded uses for its messaging, how hard will it try to push it as a commercial offering against so much competition? And for IBM, which has off-and-on been suggested as an acquirer of the whole Tibco enchilada, the question mark is really over its agility to meet the demands of the rapidly changing financial markets.

Oh, and Solace. It strikes me as a focused, nimble company that will do well at least until it gets acquired one day, though its real growth might be in more general messaging outside of the low-latency space, perhaps outside of the financial markets. And something tells me that P-7500 offering does not have much future. Those are my quick thoughts on the contenders. I’ll end where I began. It’s good to have Tibco back. Game on.

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